When your neck tweaks

Roman Koch 11. April 2023

Foto: iStock.com/PeopleImages

What do Netflix and cycling marathons have in common? Neck pain! Often, the neck is already noticeable during, but especially afterwards. The cause of this is poor head posture over several hours. Find out here what you can do to relax your neck again:

This article ist presented by Spiraldynamik

The neck is a very sensitive zone that can quickly turn your life upside down. As long as there is no pain, you tend to pay less attention to your neck. The focus only changes when problems arise. But by then it’s usually already too late. And good advice is expensive. The cervical spine is a fragile structure; mobility and stability are crucial for a healthy neck. A well-positioned head determines whether the neck is doing well or badly. The worse the position, the more the muscles need to hold. If the head is not aligned directly above the body, this inevitably leads to tension and pain. The poor head position automatically leads to more tension in the neck. That’s why we need a good balance. How exactly can you bring your tense neck muscles back into alignment after prolonged strain?

The muscles on the cervical spine are much stronger on the back than on the front. This imbalance often causes the muscles in the back of the neck to tense and shorten. Especially when cycling, the poor head position over a longer period of time leads to shortening of the neck muscles. Length is needed in the shortened muscles to compensate. In the following three exercises, you will learn how to relax again, as well as which position is good for your head.

Various neck muscles pull down to the shoulders. Therefore, the shoulder position is also crucial when your neck tenses. “Shoulder shrugs” provide relief, with this exercise, you learn to consciously tense your muscles and then let go again:

Shoulder Shrugs

Start: Sit upright on a chair and hold 4-6 kg in each hand. Keep your head upright and look straight ahead so that your neck muscles feel stretched. Now, slowly pull your shoulders up as far as you can. Feel the tension in your neck and hold this position for 2-3 seconds. Then, let your shoulders slide slowly downwards again until they are hanging completely loosely. Again, stay in this position for 2-3 seconds.

Dosage: 2-3 sets of 6-8 repetitions, executed very slowly.

Take note: When you pull your shoulders up, your head must not move forward. Hold the upright head position.

Variation: Do the same exercise while standing. Stand actively upright.

The shortened position in your neck not only tenses your muscles, but also increases the pressure on the joints of the cervical spine. The more you stretch your neck, the less pressure there is in your joints. The posterior muscles in the neck are lengthened, while the front muscles are activated. The easiest way to do this is with the following exercise:

Lengthening the neck

Start: Lay down on your back. Put the back of your head on a surface that slides easily. First, just lie down and relax. Feel how short your neck is and how far away it is from the floor. Now, push the back of your head up on the floor towards the back and lengthen your neck. The tip of your nose turns downwards towards the sternum. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Let go again and return to the starting position. At the end of the exercise, feel how the length in your neck has changed.

Dosage: 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Take note: Don’t force the movement. Just let go after tensing and don’t turn your head in the opposite direction.

Variation: During the exercise, stand up against a wall or door and make the same movement while standing. Put your heels, buttocks, whole back, shoulders and back of the head against the wall.

The shoulders and neck work best together. Exercise your shoulders while keeping your neck upright. In the one-armed rowing exercise, you combine a stable neck with a mobile shoulder. In addition, you also train the mobility of your thoracic spine. This combination is very beneficial for your neck:

One-arm rowing

Start: Stand with your feet at hip width and bend your upper body forward with a straight back and your neck in line with your back. Hold a dumbbell (5-10 kg) in one hand and place your other hand on your chest. Direct your gaze downwards. Now, turn your sternum to the side of the weight and at the same time, pull the dumbbell upwards along the body. The movement is led by the elbow. Keep your neck and head in the starting position. Then, guide the dumbbell back into the starting position.

Dosage: 2 sets of 15 repetitions per side.

Take note: Relax your shoulders and pay attention to a long neck, even in the final position.

Variation: After each repetition, switch the dumbbell to the other hand.