Neck pain is a major concern among the population. With prolonged sitting, computer use, poor sleeping posture, it has become a prevalent complaint. However, what truly causes the discomfort can vary. There is supporting evidence that poor muscle activation, size, strength, and endurance of the deep neck flexors (DNF) can contribute to the presence of chronic neck pain. A systematic review study breaks down the effects of exercises on the DNF muscles in people with chronic neck pain.
What are the deep neck flexors?
The deep neck flexors consist of longus colli and longus capitis muscles. These muscles are located in the front of the neck and are needed to maintain proper curvature and posture in the neck.
How does it happen?
Previous studies have shown that a weakness or poor activation of the DNF muscles causes a reduction in support and control of the cervical (neck) joints. Therefore, the body compensates by increasing the activation of superficial muscles (SCM, scalenes) in order to create cervical stability. However, the superficial muscles are not designed for prolonged activation and therefore fatigue and cause poor posture.
How can we help?
The DNF muscles can be (re)-trained through low-load craniocervical flexion (CCF) to correct the coordination between the deep and superficial muscles. CCF is an exercise commonly given to patients with poor posture resulting from lifestyle.
How long does it take to see change?
According to the study, after 6 weeks there was a significant change in discomfort and neck strength than those that did not perform the exercises. Therefore, it is important to stick with the given exercise for a while and not give up after a couple of days.
The Effect of Different Exercise Programs on Size and Function of Deep Cervical Flexor Muscles in Patients with Chronic Nonspecific Neck Pain: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. By Arimi Somayeh et al.