While we often hear of the importance of having strong core muscles to prevent and lessen lower back pain, we rarely here about the deep muscles in our neck that can prevent and lessen neck pain despite the fact that pain here can be just as debilitating, with the possibility of neck problems leading to altered sensation in the arms and finger and even headaches. It is important that we strengthen these muscles as research has suggested that individuals with weak deep neck flexors have a higher probability of experiencing neck pain.
What are these neck muscles?
The muscles we are talking about are deep neck flexors. These are a group of muscles that are located on the front of the neck and are responsible for side bending in the neck and nodding movements. They are also very important roles in stabilising the cervical spine when the body is moving as well as supporting the weight of the head against gravity.
What causes them to weaken?
It is very important to maintain the strength of these muscles, however over time factors including previous whiplash injury, use of multifocal lenses, and activities involving poor posture which place stress on the neck such as at a desk or checking your phone where your head takes a forward position can mean that the muscles weaken.
Poor posture involving this forward head carriage for an extended period of time not only weakens the deep neck flexors, but can also cause the muscles in the back of your neck to become shortened and tighter, increasing the curvature in the neck and creating imbalances.
How can I strengthen these muscles?
It is important to strengthen these muscles and also maintain good posture to ensure good neck health. A great exercise for improving the strength of your deep neck flexors is lying on your back with your head in neutral position. When in this position try and tuck your chin slightly so your head is pushed downward into the bed. Try hold this position for 10 seconds whilst making sure you are breathing. Repeat that movement 8 times but, make sure that you stop if this movement does not feel right or it causes you pain. It is best that you see an exercise professional if you are not sure how to do this.
It is very important when you are treating neck pain is to understand what behaviours may have caused this pain, so you can work to minimise doing them. Understanding why you are performing each exercise and remembering to maintain good posture as much as possible will make the treatment of neck issues much more effective. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.