Atlantic Coast Chiropractic

Neck Pain Exercise Options

The nervous system is the master control network for your body, directing virtually every function and action, from monitoring your life needs, to precisely responding to threats to your health.

            Each system, from your heart and blood vessels, to your digestive and immune systems, is directed through nerve impulses originating in your brain or spinal cord that travel through its protective bony structure: the spinal column.

            The neck region is the most vulnerable region of the spine to injury. Indeed, most people will not experience severe injuries; however sprains of the delicate ligaments with subluxation (misalignment) do commonly occur. Despite the injury being smaller, their location (the neck) makes their impact more profound. Functions throughout the body can be impaired when the nerves in the upper neck are compromised.

            Due to the fact that every nerve passes through the neck, if irritation or compression is present, virtually any system of the body can be affected. The point being is that a neck disorder will not necessarily just cause neck pain or headache. Dizziness, digestive problems, fatigue, high blood pressure and generally reduced quality of life are some of the symptoms patients commonly experience.

            If you have suffered a severe whiplash, you may have noticed far more than a stiff neck. Indeed, recent research suggests whiplash needs to be more thought of as a whole body disorder.

            We take these injuries in our office and address them in both a specific and comprehensive manner. Most patients who have suffered a neck trauma will require x-rays to analyze the posture of their spine.  X-rays may also need to be taken in motion to test the stability of your ligaments and to determine precise levels of impaired movements. Without this road map, it is difficult to determine how care should be directed and factors that could influence your long-term prognosis, such as degeneration.

            Exercise for the neck is very important since weak muscles are related to many painful conditions of the neck and can contribute to fatigue, irritability, headache, sleep loss, and more.  When done correctly (perform slowly, staying within “reasonable” pain boundaries), they can increase your range of motion, reduce stiffness/tightness, and strengthen your neck muscles. 

            The following exercises combine range of motion (ROM) against light/partial resistance (from your hand) in 4 directions (forwards, backwards, and L/R side bending).  To do these correctly: Similar to an arm wrestling contest: 1. Push your head into your hand while moving the head to the end of your pain free range, letting the head win  2. Repeat this going back in the opposite direction by once again letting the head win, moving through the entire range of motion. 

ALWAYS push the head into the hands. Make sure you move the head against resistance in BOTH directions, 3 times each. The trick is doing this VERY slowly (to build motor control and coordination) and to move through the entire “comfortable” range of motion.  Repeat 3x slowly.  If pain worsens, lighten up on the amount of pressure used or, stop the movement just prior to the sharp pain onset. Do 3 slow reps and then move to the next exercise direction. 

Step 1: place your right hand over your right ear. Apply pressure as described above slowly allowing your neck to lean to the right as you are applying resistance pressure with your hand. Go as far as you can until pain or at end of motion. Repeat to the left.

Step 2: place both hands on your forehead and slowly push your neck forward as far as you can while maintaining resistance with your hands as described above.

Step 3: Interlock your fingers and put them on the base of your neck and skull. Slowly extend your neck back while trying to look up to the ceiling. Make sure you are maintain resistance in your hands, but letting the neck win.

            These exercises can be performed 1 to 3x/day, according to tolerance, and will increase ROM, increase strength, and build coordination, all at the same time. Just remember to go within your pain threshold and go slow. To get a visual of these exercises you can pick up sheets at the office, or search them on the internet as “Isometric neck exercises with ROM.”

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