The neck is the most flexible part of your spine and just like any other area of the body, movement exercises and good posture are important for maintaining its health. Neck pain can be brought on or aggravated by how you treat this vital structure. We often neglect our neck when it comes to exercise, focusing instead on our legs, arms, or heart. So, try these helpful hints and incorporate them into your daily routine.
Moving your neck slowly through all its ranges is key. It is important to do pure movements rather than combinations. You should avoid rolling your neck around like a ball and socket joint (such as the hip or shoulder). Instead, flex the neck forward until your chin touches the top of your chest. Then, slowly bend your neck backwards, chin to the sky. These movements should not cause pain if they are done slowly and you have no pre-existing injury.
The next movement is side bending and is accomplished by trying to bend either ear towards the shoulder. Do this in front of a mirror so that you keep your head straight looking forward. Note whether you can do this the same amount to each side.
The last movement is rotation. Simply rotate your chin slowly so that you are looking over one shoulder. None of these movements should cause pain or make you dizzy. If they do, then it’s a sign you have a neck injury.
An important aspect of neck function is how the shoulder girdle influences neck posture and motion. Try rolling your shoulders forwards and backwards, stretching slowly, to help ease tension at the neck. General exercises such as fast-paced walking or hiking are important for your neck too. Remember, your spine is the core of your body and walking is one of the least injury-producing exercise activities so it’s something you can keep up well into your later years.
Lastly, make sure your neck posture is kept upright when you talk on the phone, drive, read, do other tasks, or sleep. A very small pillow is usually best for sleeping and neck support pillows are available to help maintain the normal forward arch of the neck. A small pillow will allow your head to ease back, relaxing the muscles at the back of the neck.