Having normal range of motion in your neck is important for carrying out the activities of daily living. Neck movements include flexion, extension, bending and rotation. Soft tissue injuries and bony immobility can restrict your range of motion. Motion of the neck is measured from the neutral position, which is looking straight ahead.
Flexion is the motion that allows you to bend your head toward your chest. In normal flexion, you can touch your chin to your chest. Beginning in a neutral position, an acceptable range of motion for flexion is 40 to 60 degrees.
Video of the Day
Extension is tilting your head back. A normal range of motion will allow you to look at the ceiling. An acceptable measurement of range of motion from the neutral position is 45 to 70 degrees.
Neck rotation is turning your head to the right and to the left. You should be able to turn far enough that your chin is almost in line with your shoulder. The accepted range of motion for rotation is 60 to 80 degrees.
Bending your neck so that your ear leans toward your shoulder while you are looking straight ahead is lateral bending. Left bending is bringing your left ear toward your left shoulder, and right bending is moving your right ear toward your right shoulder. With normal range of motion you should be able to move halfway between straight ahead and your shoulder, which is 45 degrees.
Limited range of motion in your neck can be painful and can hamper many normal activities, such as driving a car. It is difficult to drive your car safely if you cannot turn far enough to check your blind spot. Many factors can cause a limited range of motion. Injury is a primary culprit, because it creates soft tissue and bony restrictions.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.