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How to Decrease Neck Pain & Stiffness (One Key Exercise!)

Video Highlights

• Lateral Bending
• Lateral Flexion
• Exercise Demo

Hi, I am Dr. Eric Cobb with the Z- Health Performance. Today we’re finishing up our kind of high-payoff spinal series. I started off this year thinking, Hey, what can I show people that is very fast and effective for spinal issues? And what we decided to show you was just a very simple approach utilizing isometric exercise to improve lateral bending. Alright? Lateral bending is one of the things that people lose constantly whenever they’re having spinal dysfunctions of any kind.

So restoring it can be like magic. The problem is often that people wanna do a lot of mobility work. But mobility work by very, it’s very nature, can be kind of scary to the brain and increased muscle spasm and pain. So often. The simplest way to do this is by utilizing very precisely targeted isometric exercise.

If you haven’t watched the rest of the series, go back and watch the first one on the pelvis, because I cover a little bit more in depth why we’re doing what we’re doing. But here are the basics. We’re gonna put the muscle into a shortened length. We’re going to contract at 30 to 40% of our maximum, and we’re gonna hold it for between one and five minutes.

It’s not a short, fast, hard contraction. It is a long-duration, relatively low-grade contraction. The research on this is very definitive that if we’re dealing with movement dysfunction and pain, that’s the way to go. All right, so if you are new to Z Health, we are a brain-based education company. Obviously, we talk a lot about neurology and bringing neurology into the movement science world.

So if you are a doctor, coach, or therapist, please subscribe to the channel. Check out our free resources. Currently, we have coaches in over 110 countries, so again, bringing neurology into movement for us is the future. So I hope you’ll join us as we get there.

Now, let’s talk about the neck. What I’d like for you to do, if you are having any kind of neck issues, and even if you’re not and you’re just trying this, I want you to try some movement. So go through neck flexions and extensions, go through rotations, go through lateral glides, make some circles, look back, you know, up to the ceiling. I don’t care what you’re doing, but I want you to test your current range of motion, your current comfort level. Specifically, I want you to really pay attention to rotation.

The other thing I want you to do is test your shoulders. So check abduction and abduction. Check flexions and extensions, internal and external rotation. Check it on both sides. Warm up your neck, warm up your shoulder, because after you do the neck lateral flexion isometric, you are gonna retest everything and see if it made a difference. Because very often what you’ll find is that whenever we do these long-hold isometrics, we will see radical improvements in multiple areas of the body. Not gonna get into the complicated neurology of that, but just understand that it’s not magic, it is science. There’s some cool stuff that happens, but it may depend on how your individual nervous system’s responding.

So for the neck, you’re gonna divide it up into two spots. We’re gonna think upper cervical spine, and we’re gonna think lower cervical spine. So whenever we’re doing our lateral flexion work, I’m gonna have you choose, if, let’s say you’ve been having a lot of headaches, a lot of kind of chronic upper neck tension, muscle tension, you’re gonna focus on the upper cervical spine.

Here’s how you’re gonna do it. You’re gonna think about your middle, the middle of your ear, and if you reach to the back of your neck, you’re gonna find, as you come down from the skull, you’re gonna find a big bump there. That’s typically the spinous process of C2. So those are gonna be our landmarks.

What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna get nice and tall. We’re going to try to bring the middle of our ear and make it almost move like it’s going to touch that big landmark from C2. So you can see it’s actually a very kind of tight upper cervical lateral flexion. Now, this is an isometric exercise in a short length, just holding it here. But remember, we need to reach 30 to 40% of our maximum.

So how do we do that? Well, we’re gonna either use our hands for resistance, we can use a band for resistance. We can also take a ball or a pillow, or a very compliant cat or something, put it on our shoulder and press into it. I don’t care what you choose for the sake of the camera, it’s easiest for me to show with my hand.

So again, middle of my ear to C2, I’m gonna do this lateral flexion. Now I’m gonna reach up and I’m just going to give myself a little pressure, basically trying to push my head to the opposite side. So now I’m able to build up some tension in that isometric position. Again, I have to keep thinking about my ear to C2, otherwise I’ll start to drift down. So this is a nice, very focused upper cervical lateral flexion exercise, and I would be here again for a while. So make sure you’re using the timer on your phone to hit that one minute to five minute window. Normally I start off at 60 to 90 seconds and then build up. Now that’s version one, that’s upper cervical spine.

We’re gonna now repeat this, but we want to now go for the lower cervical spine or think about the whole neck at the same time. So I’m gonna use my ear again, but this time I’m gonna think about coming all the way down to the base of my neck, finding the big bump there, which is typically the bottom of your cervical spine.

So now I’m going to do a lateral flexion, which looks much more arched. So I’m gonna tilt my head and neck, and once I’m here again, I’m gonna try and pull my ear to my spine. It actually is a very kind of tight feeling. Once again, I’m contracting isometrically. I’m in that shortened position as I want it, but I need to add some resistance.

So again, I’m gonna use my hand or a band from the top or press into a pillow, whatever it is, so that I can increase the tension a little bit. Because this is a precarious position, I want you to go slowly getting in and out of it. If you notice that you’re getting any kind of weird tingly sensations or whatever in your arms or anywhere else in your body, probably back off. This, as I said, is a more precarious position. So do not want you to hurt yourself. So if you get there and you feel anything weird at all, back off, don’t go to such a deep range of motion and maybe don’t use any additional tension. Just see if you can gently work on contracting, pulling the ear toward that landmark at the base of your neck. And that may be enough for you in the beginning.

So after you’ve hit your, you know, 60 to 90 seconds, come up, try to relax any tension that’s developed, and then I want you to go back and retest your ranges of motion. In most cases, what you’ll find is that almost everything will feel more free.

And what most people will tell me is, Hey, I woke up. You know, my neck was really stiff. I can’t turn my head. We do this little movement, movement, and then all of a sudden they’re almost back to normal. So it works very, very well for a lot of these little muscle spasm issues that you may run into as well as more chronic issues like headache.

Alright, so lateral bending, a vital, vital thing for us to restore throughout the spine. We’ve been through now several videos looking at the pelvis, the lumbar spine, the midback or thoracic spine, and now the neck. Make sure to kind of keep these in your armory because they are easy to do. The parameters don’t change. They’re very easy to remember.

And so I think you’ll find these really useful as you go forward through the rest of the year. All right. I hope you enjoy and hopefully it works really well for you.

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