Neck Exercises: A Key To Posture Correction And Neck Pain Relief
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Neck exercises should be a part of any program for pain relief. In general, these neck exercises are simple and easy to do and require no special equipment, just some determination. This is not difficult once you see some results regarding pain relief.
We will start with retractions for proper posture by moving the head backward to a position over the shoulders, then a cranio-cervical flexion which is a nodding action to affect the deep flexor muscles targeted by these neck exercises. According to an article in The Journal of Pain, Vol8, No11, 2007: 832-839, these neck exercises have shown an immediate pain reduction response. Impaired muscle function has been shown to be a feature in painful neck disorders and exercises to retrain performance of the muscles is effective in the long term for alleviation of pain. It is thought that enhancement of muscular support to pain sensitive structures in the is the means for relief for both long term and immediate pain modulating effects.
In the study noted above, the data showed the exercises to display the most significant immediate relief of pain which was 14-21% compared to other forms of neck exercises (regular flexion) which displayed only a 3-7% improvement. The authors state these type of neck exercises has the intention of providing immediate reduction of pain.
Neck Exercises In Basic And Modified Forms
These neck exercises also help reverse the ill effects of poor neck posture, neck related headaches and the pain of neck arthritis or cervical degenerative disc disease. They are a simple and pro-active approach to improve the coordination and fitness of the muscles. These exercises target the deeper muscles which guide movements are important for preventing injury and they often become weak when you are in pain and thus require specific therapeutic exercises to activate and train them.
You can see the neck component as the whole body is raised and the head retracted into proper posture aligning the ear over the shoulder and then the neck is placed into cranio-cervical flexion as the head is pulled slightly up and the chin slightly down. There is a small head nodding motion as if you are nodding “yes” and the chin pulls towards the neck and the back of the head arches slightly up. The third picture shows this motion and illustrates that you can apply small pressure to achieve the position.
The neck exercises can initially be performed lying down to help get the specific action of nodding or pulling your chin in towards your neck while slightly lifting the back of the head. This should cause a stretching sensation at the base of the skull. Breathing should be relaxed and full using the diaphragm and exhaling as you pull your chin in. When you breathe in – your belly should go out and when you breathe out – your belly should go in. Watch yourself in the mirror and make sure that when you breathe your neck muscles do not move. This has a relaxing effect, can lower blood pressure and oxygenates the body. Practice this breathing exercise at night lying in bed on your back with your hands on your belly pushing your hands in and out with your belly. Then use the neck exercises as detailed. Check out the exercises for better breathing article for illustrated examples.
There is a method to use 3 advancing stages to perform the neck exercises.
|1) The beginning stage is sitting: Place your finger on the front of your chin. Then draw your chin away from your finger as you pull it in. This is basically a nodding movement with your head as if saying “yes” without dropping your head or looking down. You should feel a gentle pull in the back of your neck as this stretches tight muscles there. Perform 2 to 3 repetitions slowly. Hold: Pause for a second or two when the chin is in. Can be done every 20 to 30 minutes when sitting for extended periods of time. At least, try to remember to do it once an hour.2) The intermediate stage begins in the sphinx position. Relax your head, upper back and shoulders towards the floor. Place your finger on the front of your chin. Then draw your chin away from your finger as you pull it in and up towards the ceiling. As you draw your chin in press your upper back away from the floor. 8-10 slow repetitions.|
3) In the advanced stage, stand with your back against a wall. Place a small inflated ball behind your head. Nod “yes” by tucking your chin in and pressing your head against the ball. The ball should roll slightly along the wall. Avoid looking down. 8-10 repetitions slowly. Hold: Pause for a second or two when the chin is in. Perform twice a day.
It is important that you concentrate on performing these neck exercises with good form. With practice of these and other correction exercises you can re-train how your neck functions on an automatic basis. The approach may need professional supervision to advance you step by step through the three stages of motor learning: 1) awareness of the problem, 2) practice of the corrected postures and movements, 3) automatization of a new postural habit in your nervous system. Recovery from injury like whiplash or prevention of headaches and neck pain requires more than a symptomatic approach. It is necessary to improve the posture and fitness of your neck and upper back regions. There are many different exercises that can be prescribed. Often the correct ones can only be identified by careful supervision with a health care professional trained in rehabilitation.
The neck exercises may be helpful for cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve). A study in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 2000;(1):4-12 found the neck exercises to alter reflex amplitude which may promote nerve root decompression, reducing C7 radicular pain. This is a very significant finding and the results quite impressive. A pinched nerve may cause pain to radiate into the arm or fingers. The neck exercises should be done with caution and should not increase pain. If there is nerve compression, the affected arm may be placed across the chest to reduce nerve tension while performing the neck exercises. Additionally, rotating the head to the right or left may additionally help to reduce symptoms. Finding a position that helps reduce any radiating pain during the exercises is important.
A study from the Manual Therapy Journal, 2013 June 24 indicated chronic neck pain individuals performing the neck exercises achieved pain relief as well as improved control of the cervical spine. Pain relief in many cases was noted immediately and improved muscle function was noted after 3 minutes of performing the exercise.
An October, 2013 study in the Journal of Clinical Diagnosis & Research examined this part of the neck exercises on Dentists, who have a neck pain rate of almost 75% due to things like prolonged stationary postures, repetitive movements, difficulty with lighting, and genetic factors. The study noted significant forward head posture correction, a decrease in both pain and and disability from chronic neck pain by doing this simple exercise.
I know this page is long and I know it is difficult to get motivated to do exercises. We all want something to put on, lay on, have performed for us or swallow a pill to fix it for us, however, if we can just manage to summon just a little strength and motivation, perhaps this can make a huge difference. With healthcare costs rising, it is nice to have something that has the possibility of making a difference that is all natural and absolutely free. Please give it a try. If you notice a difference, continue to practice and perform on a regular basis. It is a finesse motion, where quality counts more than quantity. I am often asked what is the best product to help restore the cervical curve. While there are products to help, this exercise must be included for success. If there was just one method to be used, this would be it.
The results from the recent study confirm previous studies using this method and further serves to indicate just how important this exercise is for rehabilitating those with neck pain. The reduction of pain for those in the study performing the exercise was over 33%, which is very significant. So, at the computer, reclining, driving, lying down are all good times to do this. Heat, traction and pillows are all used as a part of managing neck pain, but the exercise is a big part of it.
Neck Exercises – Next Step
This is the first part of the neck exercises. The next part to includes specific neck stretches and is to be done only after you have practiced the above and feel comfortable with at least the beginning stage.
When the introductory neck exercises and stretches are mastered, exercises to improve the function of some weak muscles associated with neck pain can be looked into for strengthening the muscles: trapezius myalgia exercises, posture exercises, neck pain exercises, neck strengthening exercises, neck shoulder exercise and the simple neck lengthening exercise. For a comprehensive manual of neck exercises, please see exercises for neck stability and there is also a general home exercise program for neck pain.
An article in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2007 Nov;88(11):1441-5, Differences in isometric neck muscle strength between healthy controls and women with chronic neck pain: the use of a reliable measurement, indicates that women with chronic neck pain have lower neck muscle strength in extension than a healthy female group.This can be done for 20-30 seconds each time throughout the day to prevent the ill effects of the slumped posture.
Roll your shoulders back and down by squeezing your shoulder blades together, rotate your hands outward, then pull your chin straight back as if you are trying to touch your chin to your neck. Do not bend the head forward.
To begin, stand in a position of good posture and breathe as described previously.
Do not strain during these neck exercises. You should notice a gradual improvement over a period of time. If the exercise works for you then continue and try increasing the number and/or amount of time. At advanced levels, small weights can be held in your hands to increase the effect.
In relation to compare the effects of manual therapy and stretching exercise on neck pain and disability, the Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine. 2007 Mar;39(2):126-32, states: “Both stretching exercise and manual therapy considerably decreased neck pain and disability in women with non-specific neck pain. The difference in effectiveness between the 2 treatments was minor. Low-cost stretching exercises can be recommended in the first instance as an appropriate therapy intervention to relieve pain, at least in the short-term.”
As indicated in Effect of Therapeutic Exercise and Sleeping Neck Support on Patients with Chronic Neck Pain, in the Journal of Rheumatology, 2007;34:151-8, a neck support pillow can increase the effectiveness of a neck exercise program and can achieve the most favorable benefit for chronic neck pain. They stated “In our protocol, we have termed it “exercise”; with pain relief from the pillow, exercise can be more effective.” They recommend that subjects with chronic neck pain should be treated with both exercises and the appropriate use of a neck support pillow during sleep.
Clearly, specific exercises can have a positive effect on neck pain; however, it is also possible to help prevent neck pain by exercising. An article in Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 2013 Oct 18 indicates that a combination of neck exercises and stretching can help prevent incidents of neck pain by approximately 50% in office workers.
A recent 2014 article in Biomed Research International indicated that exercises directed at the neck & shoulders at work was able to reduce neck pain and even headaches for office workers regardless of being supervised or not. So, active involvement using exercises is clearly beneficial for the neck, as well as shoulder pain and headache symptoms.
We have some great tools to assist in performing these exercises. While not necessary, I have found that people tend to perform the exercises more often and get better results with these simple and easy to use devices. Also, to decrease correction time and aid in restoration, there are neck traction devices and a corrective neck support pillows to help passively restore the normal neck curve while actively restoring form and function. Neck supports are also a good passive method to help prevent prolonged forward bending of the head while at work or leisure, in conjunction with the neck exercises.
If you have questions related to the neck exercises, please feel free to contact Neck Solutions.