There’s a reason why the expression is: “You’re a pain in my neck!” and not you’re a pain my elbow or foot. This highlights the level annoyance associated with neck pain; not to diminish the symptoms of tennis elbow or athlete’s foot. I guess by this logic, neck pain rivals that of a gluteus maximus strain, but we’ll leave that one alone for the sake of this post.
Neck pain can start for many different reasons including car accidents, poor ergonomics, postural or degenerative changes,etc. It can also be related to spending too much time on social media or reading blogs (yeah I’m talking to you). Here is another helpful post while we’re here. How To Set Up An Ergonomically Friendly Workspace
Don’t worry, keep reading and I will show you how you can prevent or reduce neck pain without having to give up your vice!
Although I called it a “trick” in my blog title, there’s nothing magical about it.
Why don’t we call it a “science trick” instead?
There is a lot of research out there that shows that those who suffer from neck pain
demonstrate poor neuromuscular control the deep neck flexor muscles (specifically longus colli and longus capitis)[i], adapting with overuse of superficial flexor muscles (sternocleidomastoid and anterior scalenes)[ii]
In English, deep muscles that attach to multiple levels of the front of the spine in the neck get overshadowed by less effective more superficial muscles that offer less stability.
Participants in these studies were able to reduce their neck pain by simply learning how to properly train their deep neck flexors.[iii]
I will teach you how you can do this too.
I should first clarify that this type of training is more a matter of precision and control versus the traditional understanding of strengthening exercises. Don’t expect to sweat while doing this unless the thermostat is broken.
The chin-tuck head lift is an exercise that can be used to improve the performance of the deep neck flexors[iv]
So here is your first step towards crushing your neck pain!
Chin-Tuck Head Lift:
- While lying on your back without a pillow and your head rested on a surface, gently nod your head while bringing your chin closer to your throat.
- Your mouth should remain closed and your jaw relaxed. Keep breathing normally.
- With one hand gently on the front of your neck, feel to make sure superficial muscles aren’t kicking in.
- Your goal is to hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times without cheating.
You need to get this part right before moving on. Practice for a couple days before adding in the head lift.
- With your chin in the tucked position, lift your head slightly off the surface about 1 to 2 inches.
- Be careful not to lose control by letting your chin come out of the tucked position.
- You can do this daily to help restore the neuromuscular control of your deep neck flexors.
Click here to view the video on YouTube: Chin Tuck Head Lift Video
If you suffer from neck pain, I strongly recommend seeing a registered physiotherapist / physical therapist to help assess your neck, progress the chin-tuck head lift or other deep neck flexor exercises, and perhaps include some manual therapy to further improve your symptoms.
Please share with anyone you know who has neck pain or even anyone who you think is a “pain in the neck”. Let them guess why you chose them!
You may also like:
[i] Jull GA, O’Leary SP, Falla DL. Clinical assessment of the deep cervical flexors: The craniocervical flexion test. The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2008; 31:525-531.
[ii] Jull GA, Falla DL. Does increased superficial neck flexor activity in the craniocervical flexion test reflect reduced deep flexor activity in people with neck pain? Manual Therapy, Volume 25 , 43 – 47.
[iii] Falla, D, O’Leary S, Farina D, Jull G. The change in deep cervical flexor activity after training is associated with the degree of pain reduction in patients with chronic neck pain. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 2012; Volume 28, 628-634.
[iv] Haney WJ, Kolber MJ. Improving Muscle Performance of the Deep Neck Flexors. J Strength and Conditioning Journal; Jun 2007; 29, 3; Nursing & Allied Health Database pg. 78.