Doing exercises for the neck is extremely important. This includes stretching and strengthening. In fact, recent studies have shown that exercising in general plays a positive role in chronic pain. Having weak neck muscles can be a cause for certain painful conditions. It can contribute to such things as:
. When doing exercises, they must be performed correctly, in order to avoid injury. They should be performed slowly, and you should stay within your “pain boundaries”. Never do an exercise to the point of pain. The purpose of neck exercises is to increase your range of motion, reduce stiffness/tightness, and strengthen your neck muscles.
The neck exercises below combine range of motion (ROM) against light/partial resistance in 4 directions (forwards, backwards, and left side bending and right side bending). To do these correctly follow these instructions: Pretend that you are involved in an arm wrestling contest:
Push your head into your hand while moving the head to the end of the range, “…letting the head win” (See A, C, E, G).
Repeat this going back in the opposite direction by “letting the hand win” (see B, D, F, H), again, moving through the entire range of motion.
ALWAYS push the head into the hands, Make sure you move the head against resistance in BOTH directions, 3 times each (A-B then B-A x3; C-D then D-C x3) then, (E-F then F-E x3, and lastly, G-H then H-G, x3 reps).
It is very important to do these exercises VERY slowly (to build motor control and coordination) and to move through the entire “comfortable” range of motion. Repeat 3x slowly.
If pain worsens, lighten up on the amount of pressure used or, stop the movement just prior to the sharp pain onset. If you can’t make it to the end of the movement due to pain, make a note of how many reps it took before the onset or increase of pain and how far you could move your head. Do 3 slow reps and then move to the next exercise direction.
These neck strengthening exercises can be performed 1 to 3x/day, according to tolerance, and will increase ROM, increase strength, and build coordination, all at the same time.