Neck pain? Who hasn’t had neck pain? Whether it was from looking down at the computer too much, sleeping in an awkward position or after an ab work-out, we have all had some sort of neck pain. Often in the beginning, people just have temporary neck pain, with the pain being for the most part gone within a day or three. But when people get more concerned is often when it is lasting for a week, month, 6 months etc. When they should be most concerned though is the beginning of the pain, because at that point in time who knows how long it is going to last. Often when you have that first experience of the pain, it goes away fairly quickly and then you notice it happening again 6 months later…and again 2 months later. The neck pain begins happening more frequently and perhaps taking more time to let it go…and other things might start to bother you like headaches or shoulder pain because you start compensating due to the pain in your neck without even knowing.
Good news though…you can help your neck for the long haul. With the below exercise, effects will most likely be more immediate for those who have been experiencing pain the least amount of time, the longer you have been dealing with the problem the more time it may take to take effect. With that being said, it is helpful and necessary for nearly all individuals with neck pain…
I call this exercise a chin tuck. The reason for the doing this is you have a muscle that tends to work too much, called in short SCOM, and you have muscles that become too weak that rest on the front of the vertebrae in your neck, longus colli and longus capitis which are behind your trachea and esophagus. We want to help those smaller weak muscles work better so that they are able to stabilize your neck.
To do so…the most important aspect when starting out is to lie on your back! In this position gravity will help you, and your neck muscles will not be fighting to hold your head up. Now there is a muscle that runs from just behind and below your ear to your breastbone and collarbone (this is the muscle I mentioned, called the SCOM), you should be able to feel for its edges as it feels like a big twizzler, maybe ¾” in diameter. If you are having difficulty finding it, try turning your head to the left and feel for the muscle on the right side of your neck. After finding this, simply rest your finger lightly on top of it. (If you start feeling lightheaded, dizzy, double vision, sweating, nauseous, anything similar in nature, simply remove your hand from the muscle, and stay laying on your back until it subsides within a couple of minutes, usually less. I have never had a patient experience these symptoms, but there are some sensitive structures in the area you will be resting your finger, so just in case!)
Next, I want you to nod your head like you are saying yes. You should NOT feel the muscle that you have your fingers resting on, SCOM plump up/get bigger/contract. If so, try to nod a little less. Once you are able to perform without the SCOM plumping up, hold for 10 sec and repeat 10x (if able to without the muscle plumping). Stop the repetition if the muscle plumps as you are no longer using the correct muscles, longus colli and capitis, but you are using the SCOM. Try again and hold as long as you can, within the 10 seconds, before SCOM plumps. If you are only able to hold less than 3 seconds before SCOM plumps, discontinue the chin tucks and try again later in the day.
The key is to get those muscles I mentioned, longus colli and capitus, to have more ENDURANCE not necessarily strength, so don’t try contracting harder but if 10sec holds 10 times are a breeze, trying holding for longer. These muscles will be vital in making sure that your neck pain goes away and doesn’t return later down the line. So check out the video to give you perhaps a better idea than just my words, and if there are any questions or concerns feel free to comment below or if you are in the St. Augustine area feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and if not please contact your local physical therapist.