The majority of people who suffer from neck injuries and/or pain will have some type of weakness or dysfunction within the deep neck flexor muscles, the muscles that sit closest to the front of your neck. It is important to know what the deep neck flexor muscles are, and what their role is in keeping our necks healthy and pain-free.
There are four muscles that make up the group of muscles known as the deep neck flexors. These include the Longus Colli, Longus Capitis, Rectus Capitis Anterior, and Rectus Capitis Lateralis. Each of these muscles come in a pair, and they are located on either side (right and left) of the front portion of your neck. It is almost impossible to visualize these muscles with the naked eye as they are located right on the front of the vertebrae that make up your neck, however, this is what makes them so important in the health of your neck. Their primary goal is to stabilize the front of your neck and move your chin in a downwards motion towards your chest. Any weakness or dysfunction in these muscles can result in poor movement and stability of the neck as well as overcompensations of the other muscles around the neck.
The deep neck flexor muscles are very similar to our abdominal muscles in terms of function and importance. Our lower back and neck create a similar curve shape in our body, and without the proper strength and stability required from these muscle groups, this can lead to a variety of issues which can result in limited movement, poor stability, and pain. Most people are aware of the importance of having a strong core in order to prevent the dreaded lower back pain, however, most people are unaware of the importance of having strong deep neck flexors in order to prevent neck pain. The concept for both is essentially the same.
First, lay on the ground with your knees bent in a comfortable position. Then, while keeping the back of your head on the floor, tuck your chin down towards your neck, as if you were making a double chin. You should feel your head slide on the floor slightly as you maintain contact throughout the motion. This is a good way to activate the deep neck flexor muscles. Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 10 repetitions, 1-2 times per day.