Have you ever had or been a pain in the neck? Do you know how heavy your head is? Is your posture contributing to forward head positioning?
Kidding aside – Poor neck mobility and neck pain are serious issues for those that have suffered or currently suffer from them.
Your neck and head posture are an often forgotten part of the body to work on when I think of training.
In a perfect posture all our joints are centered in the joint, called joint centration, and this is optimal for joint loading safely.
Unfortunately we are up against many stresses that negatively affect our posture over time influencing the way our neck moves and where the head sits.
Here is a list of some of the common influences on poor head positioning and neck posture:
Sitting at a desk: computer posture that pulls your head into the screen.
Texting posture: unless positioned correctly this causes you to look down or forward and changes the position of your head over time. In today’s world people are suffering from head and neck issues younger than ever before. It’s affecting children and youths!
Altered breathing patterns: taking 20,000 breath cycles a day into the neck and shoulders or deeper into your core box where it should be?
Old school exercises that are not keeping the neck in a good posture, or let’s add here good exercises that are completed with poor quality technique! Example : a push-up where the head and neck do not stay in neutral alignment throughout the repetitions.
History: Falls, car accidents, sports injuries, repetitive movements in your workplace are all part of how your posture is today.
Optimal posture requires factors including muscle length and strength, and muscle recruitment patterns for movement, as well as age, genetics,history and degenerative changes.
What is normal neck movement and alignment?
When the head and neck are eased into flexion, the chin should easily be able to be brought into contact with the supra-sternal area without force. That means touching your chin to your chest!
Rotation: Side to side movement – Chin rotating over to mid shoulder without the shoulder elevating.
Lateral Flexion: 30 degrees movement to each to side. (ear to shoulder)
Generally speaking your ears should be centered over the shoulders, hips, and ankles (lateral malleolus), with minimal muscular effort to maintain position. Check this by taking a picture of yourself from the side and having a look. If your head is forward then you might have something called Upper Crossed Syndrome. This is a catch phrase for forward head posture, weakness in the deep neck flexors, lower trapezius, and serratus anterior, combined with tightness in the upper traps and pectorals.
Fact: Your head is heavy!
How much does your head weigh? Answer: 8-12 lbs BUT more if you have a big head 😉
I consulted two experts for the content this week:
From Ian McCarthy, of the Vancouver Osteopathy Centre, “When look at the function of the cervical spine, it’s important to break it up into 2 sections – upper and lower. Due to the anatomical structure of the upper cervical spine over 50% of the rotation, flexion and extension occur within the top 2 vertebrae alone. The lower cervical spine must therefore be the stable platform upon which the upper portion moves. When using the term stability however, we must not confuse the term with strength.Too often in the Strength & Conditioning industry, these terms are used interchangeably which is not correct.
In order to have a stable lower cervical spine (or indeed any stable segment in the body) we need strength, proprioception, motor control and muscle coordination.
If you fail to appreciate these attributes while training and rehabilitating clients, you’re end results will be far less than optimal.”
From Dr David Olson of Edgemont Chiropractic: “I treat patients for neck pain just as much as for back pain, it’s about 50/50 I’d say.” He reminded me that the neck has a core and should be thought of as part of your core. Patients who incorporate body maintenance with soft tissue release techniques and exercise have improved outcomes long term.
Our bodies are so interconnected. You can address an acute neck issue but without looking at the underlying movement impairment issues you are not stopping the issue from returning. “If you start to look at the neck as part of the core I suggest you will make some progress with improving your movement, and pain sensitivities,” suggests Dr. Olson.
Ideas for you:
Try some daily neck mobility. Turn your head side to side slowly and initiate the turn with your vision. Looking in the direction of your rotation will help to drive the movement and hopefully extend your rotation over time. Never move through pain but go to your limits and remember consistency will improve your mobility. Looking up and down puts your neck through flexion and extension, and then ear to shoulder without letting the head tilt up forward or back is also going to benefit your overall neck movement.Watch that your shoulders don’t rise up to your ears while stretching – this can be hard to control at first but stick with it
Try this Posture Snack!
Chic tucks in the car: light presses against the headrest of the car – like pressing a button, activating the deep neck flexors which are often inhibited with forward head posture.
Try while your car is stopped at a red light a few times.
Connect your breath with this posture snack and watch that your breath is not elevating your shoulders on the inhalation. Get the breath working for you deep into your hips and pelvis.
Examine your neck posture while sleeping. Use a pillow combination that keeps your head in the most neutral position, not elevated or twisted. If you sleep on your back work towards a thinner or no pillow at all.
Watch your lifting mechanics. Are you reaching from overhead and or lifting from the floor and taking undue stress in the neck and shoulders? Learn how to lift properly.
Seek a professional to help you start moving your neck better. It may take a team of like minded professionals to get you out of neck trouble but trust me I’ve seen some great improvements in clients and have the testimonials to prove it. Seek help to develop an individualized training plan that will improve your mobility and strength, proprioception, motor control and muscle coordination. Exercise is a vital component of the prevention and treatment of neck pain, core strength in particular.
Posture can be improved with every training session. stay positive and remember the stronger you are on the inside the better you feel about pretty much everything.
Listen here to Sheila’s segment on the Jon McComb show last week speaking with guest host Simi Sara on this topic!
Conversation with Dr. David Olson
Clinic Director and Owner
Edgemont Chiropractic Clinic
101-3155 Highland Blvd
North Vancouver, BC v7R 2X5
Email and conversation with: Ian McCarthy
Ian McCarthy MSc Ost, GSR, CSCS, CKTP
Osteopathic Practitioner, Athletic Therapist, Certified S&C Specialist
Vancouver Osteopathy Centre and at it’s time Fitness Results every Wednesday. (604-988-8463)
105-2786 West 16th Ave
Vancouver, B.C. V6K4M1
Muscle Energy Techniques: Leon Chaitow copyright 2013
Movement System Impairment Syndromes of the Extremities, Cervical, and Thoracic Spine-Shirley Sahrmann Copyright 2011 p.53,
Clinical Sports Medicine
Brukner and Khan p 313- 323
Photo model: Michelle McIntosh
Written by: Sheila Hamilton Feb 2016
Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_limbi007′>limbi007 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>