When you have a sore neck it can be so frustrating not being to find good info or guidance on how to stop the pain. There are loads of ways to treat a painful neck. Exercise is still one of the best treatment tools available. Our bodies were designed to move and move properly. Bad posture habits and poor movements patterns do contribute to the cause of the ache or pain your experiencing.
Knowing how to move your neck to feel that relief you’ve been looking so hard for is what I want to show you today. Having dealt with so many patients over the years I can tell you that normally people just don’t know how to exercise the neck area. I have never heard anyone who trains at a gym telling me they do a neck workout.
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The Best Neck Pain Exercises
When you are going through the healing process movement can help speed up your recovery. If you move a joint or stimulate a muscle in the correct way you can let the body send chemicals to the area to supercharge the healing process.
When it comes to the best way to strengthen your neck muscles there are different options depending on what your condition is and what gives you pain relief. I’m going to be showing you how to fix your neck without using some common neck stretches.
McKenzie Exercises for the Neck
Robin McKenzie, was a New Zealand physiotherapist, who developed the idea that the neck and lower back need extension movement more than flexion for rehabilitating the spine. This means doing more backwards bending than forward bending to heal a cervical disc bulge or herniation.
The cervical spine and lumbar spine both have a lordotic curve as you can see in the picture.
McKenzie found that when he had patients move into more lordosis (extension) repeatedly that their pain levels got better. He discovered this by chance after coming into a treatment room and finding a patient laying on his stomach, but with his lower back bent backwards which horrified McKenzie until the patient said he hadn’t felt so good in a long time.
This neck workout is good for people with a pinched nerve in the neck from a cervical disc herniation or bulge. It can help take the referral nerve pain out of the elbow and arm and help localise back to the vertebrae in the spine.
Standing or Sitting Position
Here is a good Youtube video showing you how to do the McKenzie chin tuck and extension movement properly when standing or sitting at your computer.
Laying Down Position
For a more advanced version you can try the supine version. Supine means laying on your back. You’d need to do this at home over the edge of a bed or dinning room table.
Key Things To Know:
- Fix your eyes straight ahead
- Gently retract your chin (create a double chin effect)
- Hold for at the point of pain or as far back as possible
- Do a minimum of 10 repetitions
- You can do overpressure by applying pressure through the chin
- When you comeback don’t push your chin forward keep your head in neutral
For more help and other recommended McKenzie exercises you can get the “Treat Your Own Neck” book here.
Jull Neck Flexion Test and Exercise
Gwendolen Jull, is an Australian physiotherapist, who developed a really useful way to test for muscle weakness in the neck. This test was developed mainly for people with WAD (whiplash associated disorder) and for those suffering with chronic neck pain. Use this type of cervical spine exercise if you sit at a computer all day for work. It helps fight the slump effect from sitting long hours at a desk.
Jull found that when a group of muscles called the deep neck flexors were weak that a patient was more likely to have a neck problem.
The deep neck flexors are made up of the longus colli, longus capitus muscles, rectus capitus anterior, recutus capitus lateralis.
The test is called the Jull Test or Craniocervical Flexion Test (a.k.a CCFT).
How to Perform the Craniocervical Flexion Test
Here is a really good video going into lots of detail about how to do the cranciocervical flexion test correctly and what the test result mean. This was done to help Pilates instructors know if a client can do Pilates neck exercises. It would also be useful if you wanted to know if should do yoga poses or not.
- You’ll need a Stabilizer Pressure Biofeedback Unit by Chattanooga Group
- The patient lays on their back on a stable surface like the floor
- You can use a thin pillow if needs under your head to keep the head in a neutral position
- Place the biofeedback unit under the neck and base of the skull (occiput)
- Pump the dial up to 20mm/hg for a base pressure
- The patient is asked place their lips together, teeth apart and tongue on the roof of their mouth to relax the jaw joint
- Ask the patient to nod their chin towards their chest (look for a change in the pressure on the dial)
- You are going to test each colour zone which is 2mm/hg increments up to 30mm/hg
- Now the patient has to hold the pressure change for 5-10 seconds at each colour zone to test for endurance ability
Signs of a failed test are overuse of the superficial neck flexor muscles: sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscles and inability to change the pressure on the dial and hold the pressure for 5-10 seconds.
Deep Neck Flexors Workout
To learn how to train your deep flexor muscles by yourself. Watch these youtube videos from how to start with a beginner level up to level 4 which is more advanced training when you feel strong enough.
Key Things to Know:
- Lay on your back
- Tuck your chin in
- Do a downward nod to look at your feet
- Lift your head a little bit off the floor, mattresses etc..
- Try hold up to 10 seconds
- Initially hold up to 5 seconds