Tackling neck pain using the core muscles of the neck. [2021]

Neck pain and neck stiffness, a very common condition.

It is thought that neck pain rivals low back pain in the number of people it affects . Levels of pain and how it affects their day to day activity varies from person to person and even how the condition started can vary from long standing postural stresses, sitting at the computer, extended hours on the phone to more trauma related incidents such as whiplash type injuries in a car crash to sport related neck injuries.

Neck pain and deep neck flexor muscle strength.

Despite the individual nature of neck pain there can often be common signs seen between individuals. One such issue is often a weakening of the “core” muscles of the neck.  Research has shown that in many neck related disorders that these muscles are impaired and that by retraining them along with appropriate physiotherapy can achieve a far better result in neck pain sufferers.

What are the deep neck flexor  muscles we want to train ?

To begin with its best to look at the muscles in the neck as 2 layers or cylinders surrounding the cervical vertebrae.

The inner cylinder or layer of neck muscles

The inner cylinder can be thought of as the core muscles of the neck. These are the ones responsible for controlling the precise movements of the neck and seem to get weaker or less efficient when we are in pain. The diagram below shows the anatomy of these muscles and how they attach to the cervical vertebrae.

“Core muscles” of the neck


Welcome to the deep neck flexors of the neck

The deep layer on the front of the neck are often referred to collectively as the deep neck flexors and it is these muscles that have received a lot of attention in recent years with regards to neck pain.

In this inner cylinder we are particularly interested in the deep neck flexor group  which are comprised of the longus coli , longus capitus. Much easier just to call them the deep neck flexors.

The outer cylinder or layer of neck muscles.

These are the muscles that are primarily involved in the ability to move our neck. These muscles can have a roll in neck pain as well, especially longstanding postural related issues. We often have a tendency to want to stretch these muscles when in actual fact you probably want to get them stronger.

You can read more about strengthening them here

.How to strengthen the deep neck flexor muscles.

This actually a relatively simple process and requires no equipment.

The action that we are thinking of when training the deep neck flexors is a nodding of the head on top of the neck. Its a very subtle action but effective in recruiting these muscles.

How do i train the deep neck flexor muscles ?

This video shows a simple progression of the deep neck flexor strengthening exercises as well as how to add rotational strengthening to the program.

How to do it:

Imagine you are rotating your head around a point just under your ears to create a nodding effect.

I some times get people to imagine they are sliding their back of their head up and down as if polishing the surface beneath or behind them.

In level 1 exercise you can use a magazine with a glossy cover to help with the movement initially.

For simplicity we tend to tell clients that we only want to put about 2-3 / 10 effort into these exercises with regards to resistance applied, You should be able to converse with someone comfortably when doing them. Any more than this is not doing any more benefit and may in fact impact their effectiveness.

Are there any other ways to strengthen the core neck muscles ?

There have been other studies that have had great results using different exercises for the neck, shoulders and arms that have had great results. You can read more about it here as well as get the videos of the exercises used.

If you have neck pain and would like to get on top of it  contact us and book in with one of the team .



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