The muscles of your neck participate in stabilizing your shoulders, neck and head when you perform activites and exercises of both your upper and lower body. Furthermore, the sensors in your neck provide extensive input to that part of your nervous system that controls your balance. Chin poking or a loss of balance can be indications of neck dysfunction.
Finding Neutral Spine for Your Neck
To strengthen the appropriate muscles of your neck it is more critical to train proper neck posture than performing resistance exercises with the neck.
Proper neck posture, known as neutral spine, is simple to find: By keeping your gaze level, poke your chin out as far as you can. Then pull your chin back as far as you can keeping your head level. Come back forward, just a notch, where you are just comfortable. This is neutral spine.
In the gym, do this before you begin each set of exercises to assure proper posture. Keep your neck in neutral during your exercises.
Neck Pain Is Associated With Changes In How You Control Movement
Research has found that during the acute stage of an injury patients reorganize how they move their neck to minimize the use of painful muscles: they develop pain avoidance behaviors. They avoid pain in their movement strategies, they adapt to these changes and these changes become permanent. This results in chronic pain because tissues are loaded inappropriately: the tissues become overloaded, they get irritated and then painful.
Coping Skills Determine If Neck Pain Becomes Chronic
Researchers have also looked at what predictors help to tell if a person with an acute neck injury (whiplash) will develop into chronic pain. They found that the best indicators of developing chronic pain were not related to the character or intensity of the pain but to how the patient responds to the pain. In other words, in going from acute to chronic pain, functional disability and psychological distress play a more important role than pain intensity.
Treatment for Neck Pain Should Include Chiropractic and Exercise
“Rest makes rusty.” In other words, rest and immobilization using collars are not recommended, while active interventions are indicated. Appropriate treatment is necessary to reprogram the central nervous system. Chiropractic is definitely in order. Scientific literature supports chiropractic treatment. When used in conjunction with exercise, chiropractic is more beneficial, over the long run, than most other therapies.
Neck Exercises Should Improve Coordination, Control, and Endurance
Exercises should address endurance and improve coordination and control of your neck muscles. The exercises can be either an intensive neck/shoulder training program or a program of lesser intensity. Your exercise program should improve eye-head-neck-arm coordinated movements, coordination of the entire vertebral column, and return the musculature to functional levels. Furthermore, your exercises should include stretching, aerobic exercises, and both strength and endurance training.
Finally, the person who copes with pain well stand a much better outcome. So, managing the psychosocial aspects is important especially depression and catastrophizing.
Explore these links for extended reading on kinesiology and assessment of the shoulder and neck region and exercises for the neck and shoulder complex.