Simple Neck Exercises – The Rotations
Neck pain is very common and while it can be due to trauma such as whiplash it is more commonly attributable to repetitive activities in a poor position or due to poor posture over a period of time. Poor posture, especially with sitting jobs such as driving, desk and computer work, is extremely common amongst workers and contributes towards the large numbers of people presenting to the physiotherapist will neck pain. Physios will assess and treat neck pain with a variety of techniques but exercise will almost always be a main plank of self management as most of the work has to be done by the patient while they are away from the physiotherapist.
The neck is specialised for rotation in particular so we can turn our heads to allow our eyes to see to one side or another. Apart from pain, lack of rotation is the commonest complaint people present with when attending a physio. Usually it is painful when reaching round to the last part of the available range or the movement just comes to a stop and won''t go any further, limiting natural movements in everyday life and functional activities such as driving.
Neck rotation exercises will very likely be one of the exercises the physio gives the patient and it is important to do them well for the maximum benefit. Firstly the frequency of the exercises, if there is stiffness and not too much pain, often needs to be higher than patients expect, because the tissues need repeated stressing to increase their length and allow more movement. There will be some pain or discomfort as the joints and muscles go further than they have been used to but it should not be excessive. Many people roll the neck around and around, or turn back and forwards to left and right in a continuous motion, both these techniques being potentially irritating for the neck joints. Exercises should be done from the central, neutral location each time and the head returned to that position in between movements.
Steady movement to one side then return just a steadily to the centre is the best method, and try not to rush the movement, keep a constant slow speed. At the end of the movement try and get a little further by pushing into the stiffness for a second or so. Your physiotherapist will guide you as to the number of movements and how often to perform them.
Author: Jonathan Blood-Smyth