Neck Pain Exercises: The Isometric Contraction

Exercises for Neck Pain
Isometric Neck Exercises

Generally we all know that exercise is recommended for us because to maintain our overall health status. So we need to exercise our bodies. You may be wondering “How do I exercise my neck though?” Today I want to show you a simple neck exercise called cervical isometric contractions.

The idea behind an isometric contraction of a neck muscle is to strengthen the muscles in a way not to create movement. This is to help control some types of neck pains which are made worse with movement. I found a video showing you how to do a series of neck isometric contractions from a spinal surgeon. This video below shows you how to perform neck exercises in a safe way even after having neck surgery.

The Isometric Contraction

When you’re in a gym you can see how to exercise your abs or your chest or your shoulders, but how do you exercise your neck?

Well one way is to do an isometric neck contraction.

These type of neck exercises can be done in different directions. You can work the neck muscles in a forwards, backwards, and sideways direction in order to exercise different muscles involved in stabilising your neck.

Why Exercise Your Neck?

The reason you would think of exercising your neck muscles would be to create balance in how your muscles support your neck. Support is also called stability of the spine.

The typical neck muscle imbalance problem people experience is the muscles that help extend your neck are too strong and the muscles that flex your neck are too weak.

The medical name for the group of weak muscles in your neck are the deep neck flexors.

Maybe you have heard your chiropractor talk to you about doing rehabilitation exercises for the deep neck flexors to help your headache or neck pain.

The exact deep neck flexors muscles you would be exercising would mainly be the longus coli and longus capitus muscles.

How to Do The Exercise

The above video is of someone doing isometric cervical contractions post-surgery on their neck. don’t worry these movements can also be done without the neck collar brace. Again this exercise video was an example for patients after having a neck operation like a cervical discetomy.

So as you can see you would gently push you head into the palm of your hand so that the muscles are contracting, but your neck is not moving.

That is basically what isometric contraction means contracting without moving.

When To Do Isometrics

I find this kind of neck exercise is good for people with poor neck and upper back posture. If you are slumping all day and bend your neck backwards to lift your eyes up instead of trying to straighten your upper back, then you could be weakening your deep neck flexors.

The main movement direction to exercise those deep neck flexor muscles would be to push your head forward into your hand.

[A Hint] – Try not to cause your skull to extend on your neck when pushing forward. This will stop you from exercising the little muscle at the base of your skull when pushing forward, which is the main aim of exercising the deep neck flexor muscles in the first place.


This type of neck exercise can flare up a “hot disc”. Meaning a new pain from a disc injury in your neck could be made worse trying this neck exercise. If you have a pain from a herniated cervical disc in your neck speak with your doctor, physiotherapist, chiropractor first as to when you can start exercising your neck muscles.