If you are like many people, you may deal with neck pain issues from time to time. This can be caused by several factors, such as poor posture, stress, or even sleeping in the wrong position. Fortunately, there are some easy exercises you can do to help strengthen your neck muscles and reduce or eliminate associated symptoms. In this blog post, we will discuss three such exercises. So regardless of whether your neck pain is occasional or a more persistent issue, try these exercises out and see if they help!
‘Why is it so difficult to exercise the neck?
The relationship between headaches and neck pain is such a common problem. A lot of times, people have chronic headaches and it is originating in their necks. It’s appropriate for us to show you how to keep your neck in good shape.
Flexing and stretching are just two of many ways you can strengthen a body part. For example, if it’s the muscles in our arms that need strengthening then we might do exercises like rows or bicep curls with weight weights; but what about when our problem area is around their necks? Just to bob it back and forth? Some people will stretch it, but that’s not going to build up strength.
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about how to exercise your neck because I see a lot of people in the gym and they’re doing neck stretching exercises, but they’re not doing anything with the chin tuck.
The Chin Tuck
Why is it necessary? If we’re trying to have a natural, normal alignment of your neck, we want to have it with a little bit of a curvature.
Take the spine for example. You may think about it as a line of dominoes, rolling from one side to another and tapping when you want them all to go in that direction. That’s how we want the contractions to go.
You will want to tuck your chin in a little bit before moving your neck down. Then reverse that back up in the same way. However, if people are just exactly like you’ve been seeing them, hinging the neck down, back and forth from there, they’re going to get very good at moving from only a single segment. Usually, when people have problems, it is because all their motion comes from one spot. This makes that area weaker than the rest of their body, instead of it having a more equal distribution of strength.
Your neck needs a break
The spine is held together with ligaments that go from one junction to the next. These ligaments transfer load up and down the spine. We get inefficient in our movements as we age because those ligaments start to develop tiny wrinkles in them.
The muscles running up and down your spine constrict when you move your neck back and forth. This makes the segment of your neck with less motion less mobile. But the segments next to it become more mobile, which causes you to hinge on those spots. There is a relationship between low and high mobility in these segments.
When we do the chin tuck, we’re forcing everything to move together. We’re recruiting muscles that pull back on the ligaments and tighten them down. This is great for when you’ve been sitting at work all day. Your neck needs a break. Your muscles are not doing anything since you’re relying completely on those ligaments, which may already be damaged.
The Obliquus Muscle
The first cervical vertebrae (C1), is the first bony part of your neck that starts right after your head. The transverse process of it can be found right behind the ear. There is a major muscle that connects the C1 to the second cervical vertebrae (C2) called the obliquus muscle.
This muscle is very important because it does a lot. It can cause headaches if it’s not working right. We often see this with patients who are having a headache. When we touch the area, it will be similar to pushing a button because of how they react to it as hitting the bull’s eye. Just by holding traction there for a little bit, it eases up their headache.
Just imagine having an injury with the said area including the joints in it. All the motions from there will be disjointed and the obliquus muscle can be a little angry. This is because it’s not getting help from other muscle groups around there.
This is why we want to help you with these neck-strengthening exercises. This way you can avoid future injuries from happening.
Multifidus and Trapezius Muscle Strengthening
Start with the small muscles that help support the back of your neck called the multifidus. The multifidus muscle is one of the deepest muscles in your neck. It helps to extend and twist your neck, as well as rotate your head to the other side. This extends from the base of the neck to the spine.
- Get on all fours facing the floor. To get this muscle to engage in position, first, push the shoulders away from your hands, arching the back to push it all up. Then, tuck your chin up. This will flatten the muscles nicely.
- In this position, nod your chin and push us up even further until you feel a little bit of shaky mini motions in your neck and head
- Hold this position for a plank for about 30 seconds.
If you have worked hard on this exercise and it is now easy, do it five times. If it is still hard, add a band to make the exercise harder. You can then hold this position better.
- After you can do about five sets of 30 seconds with a band, tuck your chin further in, making sure the tongue is on the roof of the mouth, and nod your chin into your chest. Flex the head all the way down as far as you can. Reverse this action, still tucking your chin in, bringing it up tall without looking straight up the ceiling.
A Plank for your Neck
This exercise is like a plank for your neck. If you always find yourself, stretching the upper trapezius muscle out because it hurts all the time, but it doesn’t seem to get better, this exercise is for you. This is how you’re going to lengthen it by strengthening it.
- Get on the side of a sturdy bench or a bed and tuck your shoulders down. Remember to tuck your chin like in the first exercise.
- After a good posture is established, hold this neck plank position in five sets of 30 seconds.
- Now, once this starts to get easy, we need to add some range of motion to this. Keep everything tucked in, but then let gravity help you bring your ear down to your shoulder. Stretch your head down. Tuck your chin in fight gravity and come back up again.
- Hold in this position for five-second holds. To challenge yourself, try doing three sets of 10-second holds.
You can get this a little bit tougher by putting put some small weights on your side of the head facing up while doing this exercise. All these areas get a lot of strength from the trapezius muscle can be more resilient and have less pain. And it’ll hopefully stop some of those achy feelings that you have because the muscles didn’t need to be stretched, they need to be strengthened.
Deep neck flexors / “Neck Abs”
Now, we’re going to work on your deep neck flexors or your “neck abs.”
When you’re working on this, there are some very certain things you have to do. This is because when a lot of people are just lifting their head, doing a “neck sit up”, they’re hinging through their head. It almost looks like a whiplash motion when you catch this on film in slow motion. What needs to happen is for the movements to be graceful.
- Place the tongue on the roof of your mouth. When you do that, it’s going to get the digastric muscles, their fascial overlay, and the deep neck flexor to contract together. It makes it easier for you to succeed.
- Remember: wherever your eyes go, your body’s going to go. It’s a fun trick, isn’t it? Look directly at your sternum with your eyeballs, and then do a smooth neck sit-up, still with the chin tucked in.
- Hold it for five seconds again, and then reverse it keeping the chin tucked in still, as you come back down. Do three sets of 10 with this.
The five-second hold is really important to help stretch some of the areas at the back of your neck so it can be lengthened during the strengthening exercise. Once that starts to become a little bit easy, you can either add a weight on your forehead while you do the neck sit-up, or you can make it like a Pilates exercise:
- Kick your legs straight and lock them in position.
- Suck the stomach, and crunch your core, remembering to keep the chin tucked in.
- Get right back down slowly. You’ll feel down to below your belly button contracting when you do this.
It can be tough to remember to exercise all of our muscles, especially the ones we can’t see. But just like any other muscle in our body, neglecting the neck can lead to problems down the road. That’s why we wanted to share these easy exercises that you can do at home or in the office to help strengthen your neck muscles. And if you want some extra help, don’t forget that we offer complimentary discovery calls so that you can chat with one of our experts about how you can reach your fitness goals. Thanks for reading and we hope these exercises help keep your neck healthy and strong.
If you’re experiencing neck issues and all the accompanying symptoms to it and would like help getting to the bottom of it, we’d be happy to schedule a discovery call with you. During this call, we can discuss your symptoms in more detail and come up with a plan tailored specifically for you.
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DISCLAIMER: The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional