When we use our cellphones, tablets and laptops, we tend to bring our neck down toward the device. Maintaining that flex-forward position puts 60 pounds of force through the cervical spine, based on the weight of the head and gravity alone.
Over time, leaning the head forward to look at devices can cause degenerative changes to the spine, including a shortening of the neck muscles. This causes them to become very weak, making it difficult to support the head.
Pain resulting from poor head positioning, sometimes called “text neck,” can be avoided. In the video above, Jared Brown, a physical therapist at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, explains the importance of proper head positioning and helps demonstrate three simple exercises to strengthen the deep neck flexors.
Exercise 1: Chin tuck
Lie on your back on a firm and sturdy surface. Place a rolled-up towel under your head. Retract your chin over the top of your shoulders.
Exercise 2: Chin tuck with lift
Maintain the chin retraction from exercise 1. Gently lift the head off the towel.
Exercise 3: Quadruped chin tuck
Kneel with your knees under your hips, and your hands under your shoulders. Do the same chin retraction exercise from exercise 1. Fighting against gravity makes it a bit more difficult to maintain that neutral chin retraction while in this position.
For each exercise, perform 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps, holding for 5 seconds each.
Remember, there are many different causes of neck pain and not everyone’s neck pain is the same. It is important to consult your doctor or physical therapist before performing any of these exercises.