Updated: Jul 8
Well here we are with a new blog post and some things have changed! First, I am going to try and use our website blog for all future posts. I have added everyone's contact info from Substack so that I just send one email out and it integrates better with our site. We are significantly upgrading our website and bringing the blog here exclusively just makes it easier. We have also made scheduling easier for clients, so if you want to schedule a PT, training, or nutrition appointment that should be simpler. If you have any suggestions about the website, blog, or anything else, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are trying to build a community and so we want this to be easy and beneficial for all of you! Finally, we have a special secret announcement that is at the end of this post. It may be related to what I talk about in the blog and it may involve free stuff (what a tease). So, let's talk about neck mobility!
Our necks are obviously very important with day-to-day activities. It is one of the most mobile areas of our body and also one of the most injured (similar to the shoulder). Most importantly, it is the main area of the body for controlling what we can see with our eyes. A lot of adaptations we make are to allow for our vision to remain level and intact. If you have one leg that is shorter than the other, your spine will curve the opposite way to allow your eyes to remain level. Think about way back in the day when we were outrunning predators. If our vision was compromised and we misjudged where an attacker was coming from, we died. Because of this, our bodies will do just about anything to maintain stable and effective vision.
Look at the example image above. You can see that there are a lot of twists and turns in that child's body, but the neck remains relatively straight. This creates significant importance for our necks, as they often have to pick up the slack. I want to talk about a specific portion of your neck, your upper cervical area.
Here is a quiz for you. How much rotational range of motion is considered ideal for the cervical spine?
Answer: 90 degrees is ideal but 75-80 is more realistic.
Another question: let's say that I fused your entire spine starting from the bottom (I have seen this done before and do not recommend it). How far up could I go while still allowing you to maintain about half of your rotational range of motion in your neck?
Answer: All the way to C2. The first two cervical vertebrae provide about 50% of your rotation range of motion!
Why is it the case that these two vertebrae provide so much motion? Look at their structure above. C1 is basically a thin ring of bone while C2 is similar with a prominence in the front that fits inside of C1. C1 has the freedom to rotate around C2 in a relatively large range, allowing for this increased motion.
The primary stability for the C1-C2 joint are your suboccipital muscles. These four muscles connect your skull to your C1 and C2 vertebrae, and they are symmetrical on both sides. There are other muscles that run through this area, but these are significant drivers of stiffness in the area.
Here is an example of what we consider "bad posture". Now, posture is not the root of all evil that some people make it out to be, but it can play a role. If you look at the person on the right, notice their suboccipital region, at the base of their skull on the back of their neck. Do you see how compressed the area is? If you are reading this, try to hunch over like you have terrible posture. Now look straight ahead, because remember it is most important for our survival that our eyes look straight ahead. Feel the tightness at the base of your skull? Imagine that all of the time. Those suboccipital muscles become compressed and can eventually limit mobility.
Most people think that they need to work on extension type exercises for better posture such as bending backwards. In this case, we actually benefit from more flexion to increase space for the vertebrae to move. Now, if the root cause of this is weakness somewhere else, then that may need to be addressed. However, some simple exercises can rapidly improve mobility in the suboccipital region and allow for greater rotation.
So, what are those exercises? This is where the free offer comes in! If you look at the top bar on this website, you should see an option for "Courses". If you select that option, you will have the ability to register for our FREE course on assessing and treating your upper cervical spine! I swear this is completely free, you just have to sign up for it. There are 10 videos as part of the course to walk you through assessing your neck and some basic exercises to improve mobility. The course format allows me to easily post videos and some descriptions, so it is simpler to follow along.
Also, if you sign up for the course, then you will be one of the first emails we send out when we open up our full neck course. This one will be a huge course with way more assessments, exercise demonstrations, and weeks of programming that you can follow. We will also update it periodically with new exercises and programs and when you sign up for it once, you get access forever. Any new stuff we add is yours for free, and I am already planning stuff I want to add and I haven't even launched the course yet!
So, if you like this blog, want to learn more about assessing and treating your own neck, or just want to support the cause, please sign up for the free course we have. Also, tell your friends and family, all the support helps!
If you have any questions or are interested in coming to our office in Sterling, VA, send me an email at email@example.com! Thanks for reading and thank you for helping us grow this awesome community! We can't wait to show you what else we have in store!