There are several exercises that people commonly perform that may predispose the body to unintended injury. One of these commonly performed exercises is known as a Neck Circle, or Neck Roll. This exercise is performed by tucking the chin to the chest, and then rolling the head in a circular motion in an attempt to stretch the muscles and ligaments of the neck. Neck Circles are frequently used as a warm up activity prior to exercise, and are also often performed in an attempt to relieve some accumulated stress after a long day.
This is an exercise that all of us have performed at one point or another, and it is one that we should be extremely cautious to perform again. Neck Circles pose as especially risky maneuvers due to the fact that multiple motions of the cervical spine are simultaneously combined while performing one movement, often times with high speed motion. The circling motion utilizes a combination of three different cervical ranges of motion including backwards bending of the neck, turning of the head, and side bending of the head and neck.
When performed individually, these motions are harmless, as they are congruent to normal cervical motion. However, danger ensues when we perform a combination of these motions simultaneously, as done when performing a Neck Circle. The reason being is that this motion puts the head and neck in an extreme position far beyond the parameters of normal cervical movement, thus increasing the potential for both compression and hyperextension of the cervical spine, resulting instability and injury.
There are far more safe and effective ways to stretch the muscles of the neck while eliminating the potential for injury upon performance. A more appropriate stretch would be tilting the head to the side, bringing an ear down towards the shoulder. This stretch targets the Trapezius muscle which extends over the back of the neck and shoulders, and is an area where many people experience muscle tension. This is just one example of many other safe and beneficial neck stretches.
If you feel the need to stretch and relieve tension in your neck, take a moment to think about whether the stretch you are about to perform is actually safe. Some points to consider are whether or not you can maintain appropriate cervical posture while performing the stretch, and whether the movement falls within the realm of ‘normal' cervical motion. If you have any uncertainty in regards to cervical stretches you are currently performing, schedule an appointment for Rehab to ensure that your neck does not become a pain in the neck.