Neck pain? What are these deep neck flexors everyone keeps talking about?

Nov 19, 2020

So, you have neck pain or know someone with neck pain, and a physiotherapist might have given you exercises to strengthen your deep neck flexors. Ever wonder what these deep neck flexors are and why they are so important to changing neck pain?

Deep neck flexors are deep muscles within the anterior (front) portion of the neck that help stabilize your head and keep it in an ideal posture. The primary motion that occurs when they all contract together is to subtly tip your chin down. When people sit with poor posture, they typically point their chin out and extend forward throughout the neck as if the head is moving towards whatever they are looking at. Sitting in this position causes a typical pattern of tightness and weakness through not only the neck but also the upper cervical spine and chest region. A demonstration of this poor posture is displayed in the picture below.


When we remain in a position like the one in the picture above, head and chin leaning forward, this puts you in an ideal position to not be able to use your deep neck flexor muscles. This posture can lead to and predispose other issues to occur within the body, such as the development of neck pain, shoulder pain and potentially tension headaches.

A better posture would be one where the head is pulled back and your ears are in line with your shoulders, as if all the joints are stacked in the body. Therefore, throughout the day make sure to complete frequent check-ins when on a computer, driving in a car or using a cell phone to correct poor posture. To also help in improving your posture and decrease your risk for other injuries, practice strengthening your deep neck flexor muscles on a regular basis.

Typically, you begin strengthening your deep neck flexors by performing subtle chin tucks (think of giving yourself a double chin) while sitting against a wall and keeping your head pressed against the wall. While making sure the more superficial, or closer to the surface, muscles do not engage to help with the movement. As the strength and endurance of your neck flexors increase you begin to lower the surface of the head rest/back support to lying flat and then potentially progress to completing lifts of the head off the surface while holding this chin tuck position. The two main muscles, longus capitis and longus colli, are shown below and are defined as the deep neck flexors used to assist in maintaining good posture.


If you are unsure where to start with these exercises or potentially already deal with neck or shoulder pain, book in with a physiotherapist at LifeMark to help assess where you should begin and if strengthening your deep neck flexors would be beneficial for you.



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