In this month’s Dentistry Gym, Khalil Hussein takes a closer look at neck pain and suggests two simple exercises to help strengthen neck muscles.
Simple is often a term that is looked down on because it seems too easy. Simple may seem easy, but it is often the simple things that produce the best results when done consistently.
In this month’s Dentistry Gym class, we look at two simple exercises that can help immensely with neck pain.
Neck pain in dentistry
When it comes to neck pain, especially in dentistry, the neck is subject to a torrent of abuse when clinicians look down for most of the day. As well as this, the neck is also often held in awkward positions for extended periods of time.
Combine this with the fact that we all age. And all of our muscles and tissues become weaker over time. This is a perfect recipe for neck pain.
When most people start out as dentists, they have the benefit of being young and having much more robust, strong, and flexible necks.
However, slowly, day by day, month by month we all age. The changes that occur within our bodies are imperceptible.
Eventually one day, you might wake up with a stiff neck. This slowly morphs into neck pain towards the end of the day, or even worse throughout the entire day.
It is not a case of something you did once or an injury that happened spontaneously. It is a case of slow degradation.
Now, before you think that this is all doom and gloom and you’re too far gone – we can revel in the fact that the human body is amazingly adaptable and can change given the right inputs. The right inputs in this case are long-held stretches combined with isometric exercises.
Most people hold their stretches for 10-30 seconds. However, this is not enough to cause any significant change.
If we are to instruct the body to make newer more flexible muscle and joint tissues, we need to really hit hard on the messages we are sending. Time under tension is key in making these changes. Too little and the body does not register the message as important.
A caveat here is if you also do too much, you can end up irritating the body because you’ve pushed it too far.
Combining isometrics is a good way to stay safe, whilst loading up the neck. Isometric exercises do not cause shearing forces between the joints. As such, they are much safer to start with.
Strong and flexible
The two simple exercises I show start off with a long hold static stretch and then combine a shorter isometric exercise to not only improve flexibility, but also add a strength aspect to the exercises.
It is not enough to be purely flexible, you must also be strong.
Having a strong and flexible neck will decrease your body’s threat perception. In turn, this will reduce the likelihood of pain occuring. Remember, pain is an output of your brain, and when your brain feels unsafe it will use pain as a way to initiate change.
Being strong and flexible makes your brain feel safe.
Start by slowly adding these into your daily life. Then gradually keep pushing a bit harder every few days.
If you have a lot of neck pain, you might need to start much slower. It may even feel like you’re not doing much at all. But remember that change takes time, so be patient and work to improve things slowly.
If you ever need more help, you can find my contact details below.
This class is designed for viewers to carry it out with minimal equipment at home. We don’t use weights so these exercises are quite safe for most people.
However, before conducting any exercises please consult your GP or allied health therapist for guidance and advice about your own circumstances and whether these exercises are the right thing for you.
Always seek medical advice before starting any exercise program.