In my profession as a rehabilitation physician I have been able to see multiple manuals of neck exercises that are given to patients. As for the cervical spine I continue to see an exercise published that bristles my whole body hairs. Look at the photo of the post. Well, an exercise of cervical extension with the straight body (perpendicular to the ground) is an aberration. It should never be done.
I have seen hundreds of patients in consultation who have performed this exercise and I can assure you that it has not done well to most. This has an explanation and there is also a correct way to do it by adding a variant that we will explain.
First I will explain why it is harmful to perform a cervical extension like the one we see in the initial photo of the post. I will try to make it simple and summarize it in two basic points. First I want you to imagine the cervical vertebrae as a tower of cubes on top of each other.
1 – The proper muscles to stabilize the neck are in the back. If we touch the area of the nape of the neck we can see that there are two parallel areas of musculature. Well, these muscles jump from vertebra into vertebrae and when they contract give stability to the entire cervical structure. When contracted, they act as if a bunch of hands held the cubes against each other and kept them from sliding over each other.
But when we throw the neck back, it is not these muscles that act. It is up to the muscles of the anterior part to try to stabilize the neck. This anterior musculature is not like the posterior one. They are muscles that are not anchored to the vertebrae but move them pulling other structures in a more crude way. They use wider arms of leverage and when contracting do not stabilize the cervical spine but the opposite. Going back to the example, it’s as if you are standing in front of a tower of giant cubes and you want to move the entire tower by pulling the top cube with a rope. The movement that is going to occur is not going to be very harmonious. This gesture alone can damage the neck and cause pain if we have a cervical injury.
This circumstance not only causes pain but also often causes dizziness and dizziness. This is due, among other things, to the fact that this abnormal movement that we describe makes one of the arteries that goes up to the head (the vertebral artery), which has to pass through a few holes that are in these vertebrae.
2 – Between each two cervical vertebrae comes a nerve that will form part of the nerves that allow us to move the arms. Each nerve exits through a hole that forms from the junction of the two vertebrae. But this hole is not always the same. When performing a cervical extension as in the photo of the post this hole becomes smaller. If there is any other circumstance that narrows the hole, such as a herniated disc, we will leave the nerve without space and will produce symptoms in the arms. Most typical is the person who sleeps on his back without a pillow and wakes up with some of his sleeping fingers.
Neck exercises So, you cannot do cervical extension exercises? Well you can, but you have to change the way you do it. Look at the boy in the picture. He is with his elbows on his knees. This way you have your back leaning forward. This simple gesture changes everything. When this boy does a cervical extension at all times will act the good muscles, those behind. Only these muscles act because the head falls forward at all times, even to the utmost extent. Performed in this way can be beneficial as long as we can perform it without pain.
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