Common headaches and chronic neck pain is often related to poor posture and neck tension. The Rehabilitation Research Program Centre of National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Medicine (CONROD) School of Medicine The University of Queensland has put together an excellent leaflet to help with the rehabilitation of whiplash injuries. Don’t stop reading if you haven’t suffered a whiplash injury!
The exercises and advice provided within the leaflet is standard range of movement, strengthening and stretching exercises used in physiotherapy for a wide range of conditions that is caused or worsened by neck strain and muscle weaknesses or imbalance. It is also a good way for older adults gradually loosing their range of motion to keep their neck healthy and flexible. It takes about 15 minutes to complete them and it is advised to do the set at least once in the morning and once in the evening and up to 4 times a day.
To view the pdf leaflet with step-by-step pictorial instructions, click here. The exercises start on page 20.
Neck pain and associated chronic headache conditions are increasing. Many think this is partly a result of how much time we spent sitting down, not having an ergonomic desk set-up, bad postural habits and the increased use of smartphones and tablets in positions that places pressure and strain on our necks. An exercise program that increases muscle strength, improve posture and muscular control is one of the best approaches to reducing pain and increasing what we are able to do.
Twenty minutes a day can make a big difference, however, the ultimate goal is not to find 20 minutes a day, but to learn new ways of moving 24 hours a day to really address the problem.
Summary of exercises
Do not use the summary until you know the exercises perfectly. One of the most common mistakes we make is doing exercises in the wrong way, which means that they don’t work and a lot of effort is wasted. Ideally, see a health and fitness professional to help select the most appropriate exercises and help teach you how to do them correctly to receive the most benefit. For many that isn’t an option, an a leaflet like this is the next best thing.
Four Range of Movement Exercises
1. Head rotation: Turn your head to the left then to the right
2. Side-bending: Bring your left ear down to your left shoulder. Repeat on the right side.
3. Alternate position for rotation exercise: Kneel then turn your head to the left then to the right. (Often easier with neck pain, but not recommended for anyone with wrist issues).
4. Forward and back-bending: Look down and bring your chin towards your chest, then look up to the ceiling as far as is comfortable.
Five Muscle retraining Exercises
5. Head nod and hold: Lie on your back, do the exercise, hold for ten seconds then relax. Repeat 10 times.
6. Head and neck exercise: Lie on your stomach, propped up on your elbows. Nod, turn and curl – build up to 3 sets of 10.
7. Shoulder blade exercise (1): Lie on your side with your top arm resting on pillows. Retract shoulder blades, hold for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times. Repeat other side.
8. Shoulder blade exercise (2): Sit upright and move arms forward and back, out to the side and turn your forearms outwards. Complete 3 sets of 5. Later add small weights.
9. Shoulder blade exercise (3): Raise alternate arms as far up as you can go. Do 3 sets of 5.
10. Neck isometric exercise: No movement. Repeat 5 times on each side.
The leaflet also provides some additional exercises. Those who experience dizziness alongside their neck pain, which is common, can add three coordination and balance exercise. Once the muscles have been retrained and strengthened, there is also one more advanced exercise to add to the program.
Always consult a medical professional before starting an exercise program or carrying out an exercises.