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It’s a Pain in the Neck!
Neck pain is a common complaint in our office. It can derive from multiple ways but is most commonly associated with prolonged periods of poor posture. With more time being spent in front of portable devices and computer screens it has caused an increase in musculoskeletal adaptations and dysfunctions resulting in cervical spine pain. Other causes of neck pain can derive from injuries from trauma such as sports or car accidents, autoimmune or arthritic conditions, or other more serious complications. The neck is an area in our spine that requires a great amount of mobility and stability. When that is neglected the result can be a real pain in the neck!
Oftentimes, we want to treat and focus on the area of pain but that may not always be the source of the pain. Most of the time, there is usually a lack of movement in one area of the body causing compensation in another area of the body. This is commonly referred to as the joint by joint approach. Neck pain and tightness can be a typical example of this compensation pattern. A common area that is focused on in our office for neck pain is the thoracic spine. Treating and focusing on the mid back can have positive effects in resolving neck pain. Mobility is a great component in rehab for neck pain; however, complimenting it with some stability and strengthening exercises can have lasting effects and resolve your neck pain. Here are some exercises that can help with our normal day to day neck pain and tightness.
Neck Series Stretches
All stretches should be within your tolerance of pain. No pain, no gain does not apply to these stretches. Seated or standing, first bring your head forward by looking down and pulling down on the back of your head. Next, putting one arm behind your back and your other hand on the side of your head, pull your head to your side with your ear towards your shoulder. Repeat on the opposite side. Lastly, with one arm behind your back and your other hand towards the back of the head, pull your head forward and towards your side by looking down towards your opposite pants pocket. Repeat on the opposite side.
Super Band Cervical Traction
Using a ½ inch to 1 inch super band, attach the band to a sturdy structure or hook. Lie on the ground a few feet from where the band is anchored. Take the band and strap it under your neck at the base of your skull. Make sure the band is secure and has enough tension where it lifts your head up and away from your shoulders. This is called distraction and is a decompression technique to gap the joints in your neck and stretch to the muscles at the same time.
Foam Roller Thoracic Extensions
Using a foam roller, start by lying on your back with the foam roller under your shoulder blades and your hands clasped behind the back of your neck. Bring your elbows together and tuck your chin towards your chest. Keeping your ribs tucked, extend your spine over the foam roller. Make sure to extend at your mid back level and not with your lower back.
Foam Roller Side-lying Rotations
With this exercise, start by lying on your side with one leg extended and the other leg flexed, resting on the foam roller. This allows your pelvis to be level preventing your lower back from being twisted and compromised. Place a pillow or balance pad under your neck for support. With the palm of your hands together, start the exercise by reaching your top hand forward and then across your chest and behind you. Reverse and return to starting position.
Gertie ball Chin Tucks
Using a flattened Gertie ball, start by lying on your back with your knees bent and the Gertie ball behind the back of your head. Start the exercise by pressing your head with moderate pressure straight back into the ball pretending there is a string pulling your head towards the ground. Make sure to tuck your chin slightly to ensure engagement of the deep neck flexors. This allows the muscles in the back of your neck to relax. By engaging your deep neck flexors, we are strengthening them and working on stability of the neck. Make sure to press back into the ball for 2-3 seconds before releasing and returning to the starting position. Finish repetitions with traditional chin tucks before moving on to rotations. Repeat above steps and follow up with rotation of the neck as far as your neck will tolerate. Return to neutral position. Make sure to maintain tension in the ball for the duration of the exercise. Repeat on the opposite side.
Using a ¼ inch to ½ inch super band, start the exercise with your hands about shoulder width apart and your arms at shoulder height. Using an underhand grip, pull the band towards your chest around the bottom of your sternum. Slowly return to the starting position but make sure to maintain tension in the band before starting the next repetition.