Basic Neck Exercises: Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization

Chiropractor Justin Hildebrand
Chiropractor Justin Hildebrand

Today I have a guest post from a chiropractor who will show you how to do neck exercises using concepts from dynamic neuromuscular stabilization. If you have read about the Prague School of Rehabilitation on HealthCog before then you’ll know what dynamic neuromuscular stabilization or DNS is about. I love the concept of “regress to progress” in making someone better through movement therapy. This is what DNS looks at doing by breaking down how we move and hold our body postures.

Doctor of Chiropractic, Justin Hildebrand has studied DNS and was willing to show us two very simple neck pain exercises that you can do to reduce strain on the muscles, achey joints or a trapped nerve in the neck and upper back region. He will explain to you where the idea of how to hold and move your neck properly comes from looking at how babies do it. I hope you enjoy the following rehabilitation movements.

Get a Better Neck: Baby Steps First

by Dr Justin Hildebrand, DC

Neck or cervical pain affects a large majority of the population. Whether it is headaches, pain with movement, or disc like symptoms, most people have the same findings with a good functional exam.

Upon presentation, their posture demonstrates a forward head and rounded shoulders; they have overactive neck extensor and shoulder elevator muscles, and weak deep neck flexors and shoulder blade stabilizers. These findings did not just spontaneously develop, they stem from movement patterns developed in childhood.

If one does not develop good stable support on their elbows and belly when a baby then they have to overuse their neck and upper shoulder muscles to lift their head.

Two Babies DNS Elbow Lift Example
Baby to Left: Correct stability on elbows and stomach. Baby to Right: Incorrect. Force is placed on chest and shoulders and the head is being held up by neck muscles.

These patterns continue to be used as a teenager, adult, and eventually lead to dysfunction and pain due to overactivity of these muscles. We can train proper movement with simple exercises that stretch neck muscles, and strengthen weak shoulder blade stabilizers and deep neck flexors.

Exercise Position 1

You maybe thinking, “I can not do this exercise while at work or without being able to lie on the floor.” While at work or in your car we can do variations that help restore proper neck movement and stretch the overactive muscles.

This exercise is designed to improve function of the neck muscles.

Prone Neck Exercise Step 1Prone Neck Exercise Step 2


  • Lay on your stomach with your arms above your head and elbows bent at 90°
  • Place your forehead on the table
  • Slightly tuck your chin and gently press your elbows into the table while lowering your shoulder blades downward
  • Raise your entire head off the table focusing to make the majority of the movement come from your upper back
  • Hold for 2 secs and return your forehead to the table
  • Repeat 10 times for 3 reps


Your chin should not move during this exercise and you should not look up. Your neck and shoulder muscles should be relaxed. Make sure the movement comes from your upper back.

Exercise Position 2

These exercises can help reduce your pain and keep your muscles balanced, but if you or someone you know are dealing with neck pain, it is best to see your local chiropractor/manual therapist to get an exam performed. It is important to find out what muscles and joints are involved.

Seated Neck Exercise Step 1Seated Neck Exercise Step 2


  • Start seated in a chair sitting up tall
  • Move your head back as far as you can while keeping your chin tucked
  • You should remain looking straight ahead, do not look down
  • This is retracted position. Once you have achieved retraction, use one of your hands to gently push yourself into more retraction
  • Hold for a few secs and relax
  • Repeat as much as necessary, minimum 1 set every waking hour.


Remain looking straight ahead at all times. A mid-backed chair is optimal for this exercise. This can be done anywhere at any time.

Dr Justin Hildebrand is a chiropractor in Kansas City, Missouri who has done extra studies in Active Release Technique, Graston Technique, Kinesio Taping, NASM-Corrective Exercise Specialists and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization. To contact him at the clinic or on the KC North Spine and Joint Center Facebook page