The spine has seven cervical vertebrae, located from the base of the skull to the upper back area, numbered C1 to C7. These vertebrae, smaller than other spinal vertebrae, protect and encase the spinal cord, and enable diverse head movements such as bending backward, bending forward and rotating. Exercises for C1 to C5 can increase the functioning level of muscles that stabilize and support your neck. Check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.
The first two neck vertebrae, C1 and C2, are the vertebrae most responsible for rotating or turning your neck from side to side. Sit upright in a sturdy chair with your feet firmly on the floor. Slowly turn your head to the right. Hold this position for five seconds, then return your head to center position. Repeat this movement five more times to the right side. Return your head to center position, then perform the exercise five times on the opposite side. If you feel dizzy during this exercise, stop, advises The Physiotherapy Site; the exercise may impede blood flow in your neck, especially in older individuals. Seek medical advice.
The C-5 helps move the neck forward and backward. Forward movements are known as flexion while backward movements are called extensions. Doing an exercise called chicken tucks will counteract any tendency for your neck to stick forward. Sit upright in a sturdy chair. While looking straight ahead, slowly move your chin downward as you draw your head back. As you do this, a double chin will form. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Slowly return your head to the original position. Repeat this movement 10 times.
Prone nodding stretches your upper-neck joint area. Lie on your back; you can place your head on a pillow if lying flat is too uncomfortable. Slowly bring your chin to your chest. Do not lift your head from the surface. You will have a double chin at this point. Hold this position for five seconds. Slowly return your head to the original position. Repeat this exercise five times. If done correctly, you will feel a pull in your upper neck area. As your neck becomes stronger, this exercise can be done while standing or sitting.
The University of Maryland Environmental Safety webpage on neck exercises recommends resistance workouts. Place your hand on the right side of your head and resist as you attempt to touch your ear to your shoulders. Hold the position for five seconds. Repeat five to 10 times on each side of your head. Include foreward resistance by placing your hand against your forehead, or backward resistance by placing both hands behind your head. Resist for five seconds; repeat five to 10 times. You can perform all these resistance exercises three times each day.