Fix My Neck: Causes of pain and exercises for better posture
- 36 mins on-demand video
- 7 downloadable resources
- Full lifetime access
- Access on mobile and TV
- Certificate of Completion
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- Learn how to recover from whiplash or concussion injuries, improve your posture, and strengthen your neck.
- Posture control, Neck strengthening, Neck mobility
- Resistance exercise bands, Massage ball
Fix My Neck is an introductory course to help you improve neck pain, keep you active, and teach you to have a better posture. This course consists of a series of simple videos that walk you through important exercises that help to strengthen your neck and improve your posture. If you are suffering from post-concussion symptoms, neck pain, poor posture, or headaches, this course will teach you to focus on body awareness, strengthening your neck, and understanding that repairing your posture is an important part of your recovery. But, not to worry. I will walk you through the exercises that have been shown to incredibly effective.
- People recovering from a neck injury, concussion, or someone that complains about their poor posture.
No matter the reason that you are here, this course will set you on the right path to help you reduce some of your neck pain symptoms. You will improve every day by focusing body awareness, changing some of your bad habits, strengthening your neck, and understanding that this is going to take a bit of effort.
“Persistence is the mother of personal change.”~ Robin S. Sharma
Only you can make a significant change. A doctor doesn't make you healthy, a teacher doesn't make you smart and a trainer doesn't make you strong. You are 100 % in control of you and your outcomes.
By taking this course, you are choosing to take a step in the direction of a better posture.
Fix My Neck is designed with almost everyone in mind. If you find that any of the exercises are too difficult, I encourage you to reach out to me so that I can help you modify them.
Once you have finished this course you may wish to push yourself a little further with the Neck Posture Repair Course at drturner.ca. I recommend joining the FaceBook group "Repair Your Body" to get extra help, tips, and insight from others in the course and from those who have had success in their recovery.
Bones of the neck
The skull sits on top of the C-spine (neck). 7 vertebral bodies stack up underneath the skull and are separated by discs. Each vertebral body has a unique shape, and all vertebra follow a similar pattern from the neck to the sacrum. The discs are meant to absorb compression forces like the weight of your head as it bobs when you walk or jump. The spine usually consists of 24 vertebrae between your head and pelvis. The back part of the spine is where you'll find the facet joints. These joints are the part of the bony anatomy that you should be most concerned with. The facet joints are the structure that gives us our range of motion at each level.
Each facet joint is covered in a joint capsule. The capsule surrounds the joint and keeps in the fluid that lubricates the joint. The capsule is hooked up to the nerves and can send signals back and forth from the brain.
The muscles of the neck. There are lots of them! Some big ones and some tiny ones. You do not need to know the names of all the muscles. Although it is good to have that knowledge, it is not necessary for this course. We just need to understand that muscles are positioned to cross a joint, such as a facet joint, and when a muscle shortens or lengthens, it will move the joint that it crosses.
Often, when your neck does not have the full range of motion, it can be a problem with the joint and weakness in the muscles. Sometimes resorting to stretching and massaging can temporarily give you relief from pain or tightness in the neck. Stretching and massages are fantastic, but a more effective method to repair the tightness throughout the neck is to strengthen those weak muscles. Strengthening exercises will help hold your neck in the correct posture and may significantly reduce neck pain. The exercises in this course are designed to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch your tight muscles for better postural awareness.
A common area of pain, tightness, and weakness can exist at the base of the skull or the top of the shoulder blades. The muscles in this area are the Levator scapulae, upper trapezius, and the rhomboids. They all attach along the neck to different spots on the shoulder blade to pull your neck back into a neutral position and to support your shoulder blade. Ultimately, they help to prevent forward head posture.
Muscle Trigger Points
Repetitive poor posture has been associated with producing painful muscle knots. However, research has not yet clearly demonstrate what causes a trigger point to happen in muscles. It does suggest they can be associated with muscle dysfunction, muscle weakness, and a limited range of motion. Most theories tend to agree that these muscle knots appear as a result of muscle overuse in the neck and other postural muscles during low-intensity activities of daily living and sedentary work.
When you poke your finger into the muscles, at the top or bottom of your neck, and come across a tender "knot" of muscle, you've found a trigger point. You want to find these muscle knots and get rid of them. Understand that by creating awareness of posture, and strengthening the muscles, you can correct muscle dysfunction. By strengthening the muscles, you reduce muscle weakness, and if repeated continuously, you can restore the full neck range of motion.
We are all guilty of having bad habits. Sometimes, what we fail to see is how repeating these bad habits daily, can lead to more painful consequences. The two most common bad habits that I see in the office are the giraffe neck when using a smartphone or when sitting in front of a computer. These days most of us use smartphones with our heads down in a terrible neck posture. In the workplace we are sometimes suck in front of a computer that draws our head forward into the screen. This course is not designed to rearrange your workstation nor to endorse gimmicky products, but rather to draw attention to these bad habits that we repeat daily and correct them.
For instance, your good posture can easily be maintained while using a smartphone by using one arm to support the arm that is holding the phone. This allows the phone to be raised to eye level and reduces the strain put on the neck. However, in rare situations you may require both hands to operate the device, in which case, supporting both elbows on a desk or arms of a chair will provide the support you need to keep a neutral positioned neck.
At the office, a neat trick to keep your head from lurching forwards is to keep your feet off the floor for 30-90 seconds repeatedly throughout the day. This commands your core muscles to engage making slouching rather difficult.
Furthermore, if you don’t have one already, I highly recommend getting your self a sit-stand desk to vary your posture throughout the day and reduce the postural stress.
A concussion is an acute injury to the brain that causes a temporary disturbance in how your brain functions. Concussions are related to blunt impact or force applied to the head or torso causing sudden acceleration, deceleration, and some rotational force to the brain. This impact causes the brain tissue to move or stretch back and forth inside the skull. The stretching effect is what disrupts the connections for the normal function of the brain. In addition to the brain injury, damage to the neck is always present with a concussion. A neck injury can be a major contributing factor to concussion symptoms and is due to the change in blood supply that travels up through the neck to the brain.
Everyone that sustains a concussion experience different symptoms. The list of symptoms associated with a concussion include:
Sensitivity to light/noise
Feeling slowed down
Trouble thinking clearly
Sleeping more or less
Difficulty falling asleep
Diagnosing a concussion only requires someone to experience one or more of the symptoms above.
Whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) is the term given for a list of symptoms affecting the neck and head. WAD can also be triggered by an accident with an acceleration-deceleration mechanism such as a motor vehicle accident or a slip and fall on ice. The impact may result in damage to the muscles, ligaments, and bones of the neck, leading to identical symptoms as a concussion.
Unlike a concussion, whiplash is graded from 0-4.
Grade 0: No complaints about the neck. No physical sign(s).
Grade I: Neck complaint of pain, stiffness, or tenderness only. No physical sign(s).
Grade II: Neck complaint AND musculoskeletal sign(s). Musculoskeletal signs include decreased range of motion and point tenderness.
Grade III: Neck complaint AND neurological sign(s). Neurological signs include decreased range of motion and point tenderness.
Grade IV: Neck complaint AND fracture or dislocation.
Regardless of Concussion or whiplash, it is incredibly important to have a trained specialist such as an emergency room physician or nurse practitioner rule out a more serious injury like neck fracture or brain bleed, before diagnosing a concussion.
If you would like to read more information on treatment for concussion or whiplash, please visit drturner.ca
ACTIVE RANGE OF MOTION (AROM)
It is very important to understanding what full range of motion feels like for your neck. Full range of motion can be difference between having pain and being symptoms free. It is not a complicated concept but, it may be the most important, because you need to understand what your normal neck ranges of motion are.
Begin with active neck ranges of motion. Try to get to your end range with each repetition. If you find that you can't get to your full end range, I suggest taking the movement as far as you can go comfortably and introduce small pulses to get closer to the full end range. It may not be a perfect full end range movement on the first couple of tries. That is normal! The more you work at it the better it will become. If that is not effective and you still can't get the full neck range of motion, I highly recommend getting your neck checked out by a professional.
3 sets of 10 reps, hold each rep for 2-3 seconds, repeat 2x/day.
3 sets of 10 reps, hold each rep for 2-3 seconds, repeat 2x/day.
3 sets of 10 reps to the left and to the right, hold each rep for 2-3 seconds, repeat 2x/day
3 sets of 10 reps to the left and to the right, hold each rep for 2-3 seconds, repeat 2x/day
Deep Neck Flexion (DNF)
Exercise is one of the best ways to train the brain to become aware of where the body is in space. However, just by doing a repetitive movement doesn't mean you'll be able to stay in one perfect position forever. For instance, doing bicep curls over and over again will not keep your arm fixed in one position. Rather, it will provide strength, increase nerve response to that area, and the brain gains more bodily control.
This is important because more people are stuck sitting in front of computer screens or smartphones for increasing amounts of time creating terrible neck and upper back pain. Repeating this forward head posture every day, our brain tends to accept the abuse and loosens its control. It gets lazy and starts to call upon different muscles to compensate.
When we train our brain to be aware of our head and shoulders position, we can turn off that compensation reaction and take a load of stress off our plates. This is what DNF is designed to do. It is a kind of "chin tuck." However, it differs by adding the inhibition of bigger muscles into the mix and focuses the muscle activation on smaller muscles that line the front of the spine. By repeating this exercise, the brain will efficiently register when poor posture is putting stress on your body.
5 reps, hold 10 seconds each. 2x/day
If this exercise causes pain or irritation, please reduce the intensity or repetitions. It is not uncommon to feel irritation during the first few reps or sets, this will dissipate as you continue.
Resisted Neck Extension
One of my favorites. I prescribe this exercise to every patient that comes into my office. It focuses on stretching and strengthening the muscles that attach from the base of the skull down on to the neck.
The group of neck muscles called the suboccipitals can often be tight, tender, and weak. This may lead to headaches and neck pain that can be triggered by poor sleep positions and terrible posture...
Strengthening the tight, tender, and weak neck muscles can be a tremendous solution to reduce neck pain, headaches, and poor posture.
I repeat this exercise daily because, like you, I use a smartphone and a laptop and need to combat the stress of our modern lifestyle. It helps me to counteract the effects of forwarding head posture.
In the office, I use either a towel or a resistance band. If you have a partner, you can place their hands at the back of your head to apply the resistance as you move your head into extension. This can provide more of a challenge.
3 sets of 10 reps, hold each 5 seconds, 2x/day.
T-SPINE WALL EXTENSIONS
Do you have to sit at a desk in front of a computer all day?
If so, I want you to pay close attention to this exercise. This exercises is going to help establish the base of support for the neck. When we are stuck with poor posture, seated at a desk all day, the muscles of the neck tend to get tight, sore, and weak. This is why people say they store their stress in their "shoulders". When in fact that "stress" is just poor posture repeated over and over, leading to neck and upper back pain.
Wall extensions are designed to invite the upper back to reject the hunching that comes with forward head posture. This exercise will introduce more extension into the upper back and help you learn to stabilize your spine.
3 sets of 12 reps. 2x/day
RESISTED THERABAND TURTLES
This exercise sounds more humorous than it is. If it is done correctly, you will start to feel the muscles working at the top of the neck. That is important, especially if you are someone who experiences headaches behind the eyes. Often these types of headaches are associated with weak and tight muscles at the base of the skull. These muscles tend to interfere with the nervous tissue that travels up behind the eye, increasing the intensity of the headache. By consistently performing this exercise, you will strengthen the muscles at the base of the skull, and over time the frequency and intensity of headaches will fade away.
10 steady reps facing away from the anchor, hold last rep 10 seconds, repeat 3x/day.
Resisted Theraband Rotations
This exercise is almost the same as the Turtles however, you are perpendicular to the anchor and turn your neck (rotate) as far as you can. Make sure that you position the Theraband above the eyebrows and wear a headband underneath the resistance band to make it stay on your head more efficiently.
10 steady reps right, hold last rep 10 sec
10 steady reps Left, hold last rep 10 sec
PRONE CHIN TUCKS
Prone chin tucks are a great way to put your proper deep neck flexion into action. This exercise will prime the muscles needed for postural awareness and oppose forward head posture. By being in a horizontal position, you will be working against gravity and stabilizing your shoulders and lower back.
When you get comfortable with this exercise, you will find that you do it unconsciously throughout your day. Your brain no longer wants to tolerate the stress from a poor posture, and instead, you will find more comfort in maintaining a neutral spine.
3 sets, hold 10 seconds each rep, repeat 2x/day.
Neck Stretches and Rolling
You are all going to experience neck pain at some point in your lives. Stretching and rolling your muscles can be exactly what you need to help reduce some of that pain.
Stretching (when held a minimum of 30-40 seconds) can help to reduce tension built up in the soft tissues. This is due to how our soft tissues respond to physical stress in that functional stimulation precedes structural change. The same principle applies to strengthen muscles. Therefore, when we stress our muscles, they will adapt. When stretching, the objective is to lengthen the soft tissue fibers and decrease the stress on your joints and relaxes the pressure on the nerves.
TOWEL STRETCH AND LACROSSE BALL
Hold or press for 60 seconds each side.
The Towel Stretch has gotten me out of many neck pain situations. Douglas Adams had it right in his book "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," when he says to never leave home without your towel. I recommend keeping on at your bedside to stretch in the morning and at night before bed.
Rolling with a lacrosse ball is incredibly useful. It can become your massage therapist that goes everywhere you do. The best part is that when using the ball, you can actively move your muscles. I recommend finding those knots and slowly move your neck away to lengthen the muscles. Rolling can be sensitive, however, doing it slowly, and consistently reduces the sensitivity over time.
Monster Band Shoulder Stretch
The monster band stretch will require you to purchase the monster bands online. Alternatively, If you do not have the monster bands, you can use a stable chair and grab ahold of the side of the seat and lean in the opposite direction for 60 seconds.
3 sets, hold for 60 seconds each.