NOTE: This website is being renovated. I am testing a larger type size and a larger reading area. And at the suggestion of one of my readers, I am including a couple of pictures with this article.
For the last two articles, I have written about parts of your physical infrastructure which are often overlooked when you are starting an exercise program. Two weeks ago I wrote about strengthening your wrists and making them more flexible. Last week I wrote about your ankles. This week, I am writing about your neck.
For older people, the neck can be a challenge. Your neck muscles become weaker with age. Since your neck supports your head, a weak neck can cause a drooping head with a direct relationship to poor posture. Problem areas with which are most familiar are, overextension, overuse, and general weakness. Overextension can come as a result of whiplash, as from a rear end automobile collision. Overuse, is simply when you are bending, twisting, tensing and otherwise using your neck too much, too often, causing strain and soreness. General weakness comes from lack of use and age.
There is very little information on neck exercise in most exercise books. Yet for seniors, the neck is very important. The neck muscles weaken and loosen over time and often there are spinal problems associated with the neck. When exercising, particularly when doing any movements while lying on your back, the neck can be under more stress than usual. The neck muscles need to be both strong and flexible to be able to comfortably accommodate exercises which require moving the head through different positions, as well as accommodate good posture and the basics of moving as a part of daily living.
Here are a few exercises that you can do to strengthen you neck and to make it more flexible. Doing these exercises over time should help with problems from overextension, overuse and general weakness. Start slowly and follow the instructions.
Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. If you have any history of neck or spine injury, see your doctor before doing any of the exercises in this article. If you feel any sharp pain while doing these exercises . . . stop. If the pain persists after you have stopped, then see a medical professional.
Head and Neck four way isometric strengthening exercises:
- Start by standing or sitting, facing forward and placing the heels and palms of your hands on your forehead. Push your hands against your forehead putting pressure on the front of your head and neck without moving your head. Hold for eight to ten seconds. Start easy. Don’t push too hard at first. You can increase the pressure as your neck gets stronger over time.
- Looking straight ahead, put the palm of your hand against the side of your head and push against your head. Hold for eight to ten seconds. Do the same thing with the other side.
- Looking straight ahead, clasp your hands behind your head and exert pressure against the back of your head. Hold for eight to ten seconds.
- Variation: Exerting slightly less pressure, move your head against the pressure of your hand(s) for the full range of motion in each direction. Do this five to seven times in all four directions.
Stand up or sit looking straight ahead. Lower your head toward your chest and bring it back to straight ahead. Repeat three times. Then bend your head backward as far as you can and repeat three times. Then tilt your head to one side and then the other side. Repeat three times. Then rotate the head down, to the side, to the back, the other side, and back to the front. Repeat three times in each direction. You should hear some crackling sounds when you rotate your head. Don’t be alarmed. But if there is sharp pain associated with the head rotation . . . stop, and get it checked out.
Head and Neck Raise:
Lie on your back, legs straight or bent, arms at your side. Use a small pillow or book or even a yoga block to support your head if necessary. Lift your head and shoulders up and forward slightly. This should force your lower back into the floor. Hold the position for three seconds. Lower and repeat five to ten times. This will strengthen the muscles in the front of your neck. An added benefit is that it will help tighten your abdominal muscles since it is a variation on the basic abdominal “crunch”. Take your hand and feel the front of your neck as you do this movement and you will feel the muscles as they work for you.
Your can expect a little strain and soreness when you first do these. Unless there is sharp pain, the soreness should disappear. If it is very sore, lay off the exercises for a few days, then start again.
Don’t do any of the movements if you have had recent major neck or upper spinal surgery. Always check with your doctor for any abnormal pain in your neck.
Your neck muscles can easily be strengthened and made more flexible if you work on it. You can be less susceptible to neck injury if in a car accident or if you fall.
You don’t have to make a big deal out of doing neck exercises. Just include a few in your exercise program. If you do the exercises and movements that I have suggested in this and the last two articles, you should be well on your way to a better prepared physical infrastructure. All the basic infrastructure exercises I have suggested in these three articles combined should take no longer than ten to twelve minutes total to complete.
Thanks for reading.