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Strength Exercises for Neck Pain Prevention



Hi All,

From popular demand this article will be covering strength based exercises related methods to prevent neck pain.

Overview

By far and large the main group of people that experience issues with neck pain involve people who sit or stand for extended periods of time; namely – people with office-based jobs.

The causes of neck pain are well documented. As a general overview neck pain usually originates with prolonged sitting or standing due to forward head protraction.


This movement places extra pressure on the suboccipitals which is a small group of muscles that are located at the base of the skull and largely responsible for tension headaches, in addition to the upper trapezius and local joint structures such as facet joints and intervertebral joints all of which can cause neck pain.


The forward head protraction can occur from a number of sources which include;

  • Excessive slumping: Don’t do it!

  • Rounding of the shoulders

  • Fatigue of the deep neck flexors, trapezius and erector spinae

  • Poor work place set up

  • Cradling the phone between the shoulder and ear

Strength exercises can assist with slumping, shoulder rounding and muscle fatigue issues. Other factors that can provide a more immediate effect on neck pain include adjusting the workplace set up and getting a headset with a mic on it.

Where to get Started?

Posterior chain – your erector spinae goes from your sacrum all the way up to the base of the skull. Its job is to assist in keeping your upright as it is one of the biggest global stabilisers in the body. Through training this muscle group, you will increase its strength and endurance which assists in maintaining a more upright posture and therefore avoid slumping.


This muscle groups is best trained directly through deadlifts or back extension if not a fan of deadlifts. It can also be trained indirectly through pulling movements that require it to stabilise the body as it performs pulling movements such as seated rows

Upper trapezius – are in-part responsible for stabilising the head and supporting the shoulder girdle (collarbone and shoulder blade). The more forward the head is in space, the more pressure that is placed on this muscle group. If in a poor position for too long it fatigues and a headache/neck pain is not too far away.

The upper trapezius is best trained through exercises that involve upwards rotation or elevation of the shoulder blades. These can include but are not limited to shrugs (dumbbell or cable) and overhead press (dumbbell or barbell)

Middle and Lower Trapezius and Rhomboids – in the role of neck pain prevention these sets of muscle groups are responsible for limiting rounding of the shoulders and limiting the distance that the shoulder blades separate. This is relevant because rounding of the shoulders automatically pokes the head forward which as mentioned previously can cause neck issues.


These groups of muscles are easily trained through all pulling movements such as facepulls, bent over rows, seated rows and iso-lateral rows. Did I mention rows?

Deep neck flexors – this muscle group doesn’t get a lot of press but work in tandem with the upper trapezius to stabilise the head and prevent it from dropping forward independent of the neck. It is located at the front of the neck and maintains the distance between the chin and and neck.


They can be trained directly whilst at home through making a double chin in all types of positions. The exercise progression usually starts whilst sitting and are progressed to lying down. If this doesn’t sound like something that is interesting to you, it can be trained at the same time through maintaining a very small double chin movement when performing exercises such as bent over rows and deadlifts. Just don’t overdo the double chin part!

Winding Up

Keep in mind that it takes weeks to months for muscle groups to improve in strength so don’t expect these exercises to be the solution in the short term. It’s a medium to long term solution that requires consistency.

As always team if you have any questions feel free to swing by the clinic or give me a call.

Cheers,

Vincent Harvey

Physiotherapist


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North Perth

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