A few months ago we talked about the importance of efficient posture. I’d like to break it down now to even more specificity – neck posture and alignment in exercise. I often have folks tell me that they can’t do sit ups or crunches, or overhead lifts due to neck pain and strain. Maintaining proper alignment, and training/strengthening your neck in this alignment, can be helpful during workouts and in daily life.
We often talk about the “core” in relationship to our back, but our neck has a core too. It is made up of several muscles – the most commonly known one being the Longus colli: one of a group of 4 deep neck flexors. The deep neck flexors do flex, or bend forward, your neck. However, they also work in conjunction with the deep segmental muscles in the back of your neck to maintain alignment and stability. These muscles play an important role in postural function. Gravity, the weight of our head, and our sitting-society posture tends to put us into a head forward, head tilted up posture. Our neck “core” helps to counteract these forces and helps to hold our head in a more neutral position.
Weakness and decreased endurance of the deep flexors has been found in about 70% of people with chronic neck pain, is commonly a result of whiplash injury, and is often implicated in cervicogenic (arising from the neck) headaches.
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Written by: Amira Ranney, PT – Mountain Physical Therapy