Why do I need neck strength?
Neck strength is often commonly neglected in training but can form a vital role in the prevention of neck pain, improving posture and reducing concussion in sport. As with any other part of the body, part of rehabilitation when injured is to re-strengthen the injured area – and the neck should not be excluded!
Research has shown that for every 1 pound increase in neck strength, odds of concussion reduced by 5% in high school athletes. (Collins et al 2014).
What are the deep neck flexors my physio is talking to me about?
The deep neck flexors are usually specifically talking about ‘longus capitis’ and ‘longus colli’. These deeper muscles are often impaired in motor control and strength in people with neck pain (in comparison with superficial neck flexors – ‘sternocleidomastoid’ and ‘anterior scalenes’).
These deep muscles of the neck are often referred to as the ‘core’ of the neck. Similarly to the lumbar spine – experiencing pain in these areas will inhibit muscle contraction of these ‘core’ deeper muscles which can lead to pain, ache, loss of range or headache.
How will training these muscles help my pain?
An initial low load endurance program targeted at craniocervical flexion has been shown in clinical trials to reduce neck pain and headaches.
A very simple exercise (such as the one shown in our video) is a great way to begin training your deeper neck muscles and beginning the rehabilitation process.
When can I start training these muscles?
Once assessed by your physiotherapist you should be able to begin these exercises quite quickly after any episode or acute, subacute or chronic neck pain. These exercises will have to be pain-free and comfortable which is why it is so important to make sure you are being guided by a professional.
There are many progressions to be made once adequate contraction levels have been achieved. Your physio can take you through a range of harder strength exercises to target the superficial neck muscles to ensure the prevention of further episodes.
A good point to remember is that training your shoulder muscles will NOT increase your neck strength. So if you’re sick of your neck pain, get your neck assessed and start to be specific with your training!