The deep neck flexors are a group of muscles on the front of your neck that function to perform simple movements such as nodding and turning the head. However, poor posture over a long period of time weakens these muscles and allows the head to move forward. This forward head posture can result in chronic neck pain when uncorrected. Exercises aimed at retracting, or moving the head back over the shoulders, strengthen these muscles and return them to their optimal length.
Chin tucks are the simplest exercise that can help strengthen the deep neck flexors. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Do not use a pillow to support your head or neck. Keeping the back of your head on the bed or floor and your mouth closed, bring your chin to your Adam’s apple. Keep your head straight without turning to either side. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times, twice per day. It is important to master this exercise, as it is the basis for most deep neck flexor exercise programs.
Head nods can be performed from the same position as the chin tucks and are generally seen as a progression from the chin tucks. Start this exercise by performing the chin tuck exercise, and while keeping your head straight, lift your head off the bed or floor. Only bring your head up 3 to 4 inches. Hold this position for three seconds and slowly lower your head back to the table. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times, twice per day.
Starting on all fours, or the quadruped position, while performing chin tucks or nods will prove to be more challenging. While doing this exercise, make sure your head stays straight. Perform a chin tuck, then bring your head all the way back up, so you are looking straight ahead and not down at the ground. Slowly repeat this exercise 10 times, twice per day.
Postural correction is also important to ensure the deep neck flexors are in the appropriate position throughout the day. To ensure you have proper posture, stand with your back against a wall with the back of your head touching the wall. Keep your feet about 6 inches in front of the wall. Feel the distance between your neck and the wall; it should not be more than two fingers width. This simple trick is enough to keep your head back and your deep neck flexors from becoming over stretched. It is always a good idea to perform a few chin tucks to keep your head back and your posture correct.