ESSENTIAL NECK EXERCISES
Tid Bits of Info
- Whip lash occurs when the head “snaps” forward and backward quickly which leads to injuries to the soft tissue that holds the spine together.
- Natural aging leads to less flexibility and pliability of soft tissue and the discs lose fluid making the spine more susceptible injury and pain.
- The use of cell phones and computers can lead to poor neck and shoulder posture.
- The human head averages a weight of 12 lbs. A forward head/neck angle of 15 degrees puts 27 lbs on the spine and a 60-degree angle loads to spine with approximately 60 lbs.
- If you develop neck pain, seek the advice and treatment from a Physical Therapist.
Neck pain can range from simply irritating to extremely agonizing. It can be a nagging soreness, a stiffness that impacts the shoulders, or even a pulsing pan that interrupts sleep. Every day some people suffer neck pain and other people injure their necks. There are treatments for neck pain and exercises for preventing neck pain. Once they pinpoint cause of pain, healthcare providers can often help patients resolve symptoms within a few weeks.
The first challenge in addressing neck pain is determining the sources of the pain. The healthcare provider will usually ask a series of questions and examine the patient during diagnosis. Poor posture is a common cause.
The neck or cervical spine is a group of 7 vertebrae that sit at the top of the spine and is responsible for head movements. The proper cervical spine posture is reverse “c” shape. When this shape is maintained during activity it enables the vertebra to withstand the forces of gravity. These forces of sheer and compressive are easily handled by the healthy spine if the position of the bones does not get altered for a prolonged period of time or via a violent action. In theory, the cervical spine posture should be proper at all times. Standing, sitting and lying down should not alter the position of the vertebra but the forces of gravity are greatest when someone is upright.
Regardless of the cause of someone’s neck pain, treatment will seek to re-establish the normal posture, enabling the muscles of the spine to provide dynamic stability to it. The muscles of the upper back and neck work in unison to maintain proper cervical spine posture. If the muscles are not strong enough, the forces of gravity will be too great for them to handle and the neck becomes more susceptible to being injured or experiencing an insidious onset of neck pain.
The muscle structure of the upper back, shoulders and neck must be conditioned in a way that enables them to provide the support and or movement to the cervical spine and head. All exercise programs should include core exercises and this blog will not be specific for that type of routine. Instead, the following are essential exercises that can be performed daily for approximately 1 month and then 3x/week to maintain good muscle/nerve relationship and communication. The nerve must be trained to be able to control the muscle when it has to contract to move or stabilize the joints of the neck.
SHRUGS: Stand facing a mirror to assess your posture and be able to watch your shoulders move symmetrically. Hold weights in your hands and keep your arms at your side. Your elbows remain straight throughout the lifting motion. Start by moving your shoulders upwards towards your ears. At the top of the motion pause, and then move your shoulders backwards. As your shoulders move backwards you should think that you are trying to put your shoulder blades (scapulae) together.
LATERAL RAISES: Stand facing the mirror. Watch your shoulder motion and be sure that it remains symmetrical throughout the exercise. While you hold the weights in your hands, your elbows are bent to a 90-degree angle. Without straightening your elbows, begin to raise your elbows up to shoulder level, keeping your elbows bent and hands facing downward. Your motion should stop when your elbows are at shoulder level (remaining at a 90-degree angle) and your forearm is parallel to the floor.
SHOULDER BLADE SQUEEZES: Throughout the course of the day, work on attempting to “squeeze” your shoulder blades (scapulae) together. You should envision that you are trying to touch them together. This works the muscles that have to hold the shoulder blades in a position that enables the cervical spine to be in its proper posture.
NECK EXTENSION: Lie prone (face down) on a bench or bed, with your head barely hanging over the edge. Keep your arms, chest and lower extremities flat on the bench or bed. Begin the exercise by raising your head, as if you are trying to look upwards and directly forward. You should not experience pain in your neck or tingling in your upper extremities as you raise your head. If you have been diagnosed with Cervical Spine arthritis, you may not be able to perform this exercise.
LATERAL STRETCHING: Standing or sitting, place one arm behind you, in the “small” of your back. Take the opposite hand and place it on top of your head, and slowly pull your head down moving that ear towards your shoulder. The second part of this stretch is to rotate your chin toward your armpit and then repeat the pulling on the head to move the chin towards the chest. Don’t stretch too aggressively!
The strengthening exercises should be performed with no weight or resistance initially but eventually, you will have to add some weight. The repetitions should range between 10 -15 and do 1-3 sets as you get used to the routine. The stretching exercises should be done several times per day and the stretch should be held for at least 20 seconds. Do 2-3 on each side.
If you suffer from neck pain, seek the advice and treatment of a Physical Therapist that specializes in treating orthopaedic injuries. They can perform numerous treatment techniques that will reduce your symptoms. They will prescribe a number of exercises and make sure that you are doing them correctly. You do not need a doctor’s prescription to seek treatment from a Physical Therapist.
Neck pain is one of the most common types of conditions that healthcare providers treat on a daily basis. You can help to reduce symptoms that you might have or prevent them from occurring by maintaining proper posture. If you perform the above exercises you will stretch and strengthen the necessary musculature that is needed to provide the support to the cervical spine throughout the course of a day.