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Simple Neck Exercises Progressing Rotation

Neck pain is a very common problem secondary to poor posture, work activities and trauma such as whiplash associated disorder. Your physiotherapists will very likely use a variety of treatment techniques but exercises will be high on the list. Your physio can only do so much in the short time you see them, the remainder of your therapy needs to be performed by you consistently. Rotations are a common exercise and I have covered this in another short article. Doing the rotations in your standard neck posture may be appropriate or it may be better to correct your posture and do the exercises then.

The initial progression is to bring the neck back away from the poking chin posture to a degree that feels reasonable and do the exercises, slowly and steadily, whilst holding that position. Once you have mastered this your physio may ask you to perform cervical retraction, a “double chin” movement of tucking the head in, before doing the rotation. You tuck your face in, keeping it pointing forward and not tipping it up or down, then perform the rotation a number of times to one side, returning to the centre and letting the tuck release. You will often find this much tighter and more difficult to do but a person with a normal neck will manage it easily.

A progression beyond this for people with significant stiffness but little pain is to use your hands to pull your head round to a degree once you are at the end of the movement. A gently repetitive pressure at end range can ease joint stiffness problems but your physiotherapist will guide you on the proper technique. Your physio may also indicate they want you to tip your head forward slightly as you do the exercises to stress the upper cervical joints, or tip your head back slightly with a tuck in to stress the lower cervical joints.

Much of the neck''s rotation occurs at the top two levels in the neck, between the skull and the atlas bone and the atlas and the axis bone. Bending your head right forward into flexion as far as it will easily go before rotating to one side or the other forces the upper cervical joints to do most of the rotation and this may be appropriate if your problem is mostly upper cervical.


Author: Jonathan Blood-Smyth

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