Saving your neck 4 July 2013 | Posted by Dr Duncan Jefferson | Posted in Fitness Health Share by email Page shared successfully Share again? An error has occurred on the server is currently unable to send your message. Please try again later. Please try again Your name * Please enter your name Your email address * Please enter your email Your email is invalid Friend's email address * Please enter your friend's email Your friend's email is invalid Add a message Share Cancel Tweet Buffer The neck is one of the most critical structures in our body, and at the same time, it’s one of the most ignored areas too. Most times we only think about it when it comes to putting on a tie or wearing a necklace, but when it “goes wrong” then it occupies our conscious thinking 24/7!. We can lose an arm, a leg, a kidney or even one lung and still function pretty well, but lose your neck and you’re dead! The neck looks a fairly simple structure because it’s “that bit that joins the head to the body”, and can be long, short, thick or thin. But even if we ignore the fact that it’s the conduit by which we can get nutrition into our bodies, or that it’s the only way we can get air in and out of our lungs, or even the fact that it’s where the gland - the Thyroid gland - that controls our metabolism along with the four tiny glands that control the health of our bones, are situated: even if we ignore all that, then there’s the other fairly important issue that it also is the super Highway of nerves that links the brain to the rest of our body! And if you lose that you lose your bodily movement and your bodily functions too: and then you really learn what it is to be dependent on others! The average human head weighs around 5kgs and is perched on the top end of our spinal column, and the bit of the spine within the neck is known as the Cervical spine. The head contains our brain which is connected to the rest of the body via the spinal cord that travels to its destination through the cervical spine. The neck is moved by various muscles that are attached to both the boney spine, the base of the skull, to the upper part of the rib cage and shoulder girdle, and allow the head to be moved in many directions. Any damage to the bones of the cervical spine will lead to reduced movement of the neck and can lead to damage to the nerves that run through it, so it should be a critical part of our daily health routine to care for our necks as best we can. These days with the ubiquitous presence of screens large and small, we often sit in a position with our heads stuck forward in front of our bodies: and supporting that 5kg weight in front of your centre of gravity puts a huge amount of strain on the muscles that are attempting to hold it steady. It’s really no wonder then that we get tension headaches or pains in our shoulders, as those anchoring muscles pull constantly on the places where they are attached - the base of the skull and the shoulders. So posture is critically important if we are to begin to care for our necks and spines. So: Imagine that someone has a finger on the crown of your head and you are pushing up against it - that’s the correct position for your neck and spine! Tuck your chin in as that simple act will tend to restore your neck to its more normal position, and here are a couple of exercises: 1. Dorsal glide: Sit or stand with your head pushing up against that imaginary finger on the crown of your head: tuck your chin in and then gently push your chin backward with your fingers as far as is comfortable and hold for 10 seconds. 2. Sit/stand in the correct position with chin tucked in and place your hand against the right side of your head and push against your hand for 10 seconds: repeat on the other side. Then push forward against both hands, and finally push back against both hands. These resistance exercises will help to strengthen your neck muscles if repeated regularly over time. 3. Sit or stand with the correct posture and hold your hands up like you’ve been held up by a robber with your elbows at 90 degrees and your hands at the level of your ears. Then slowly lower your elbows and glide them behind your back until you can feel the shoulder blades being squeezed together - hold for 10 seconds and repeat three times. Having good posture and a strong flexible neck will give the structures within it greater protection and help control the pain created by poor posture or arthritic changes within the spine, which all of us will eventually suffer from. I was privileged enough to work in the Quadriplegic Centre unit for a number of years as Medical Director and got to know some amazing people whose lives had been devastated by spinal injuries or spinal disease. Some had been emotionally crippled by their physical disabilities but others led lives that can only be described as inspirational. Two young men stand out as beacons to the rest of us: one was injured in a sporting accident at the age of just 17 but took his quadriplegia as a challenge and has gone on to do amazing things within the legal profession as well as getting a Rhodes Scholarship. The other was “cleaned” up at a traffic light by a motorist whose moment of madness turned it’s innocent victims life upside down. This “Man-on-a-Respirator” has since gone on to give talks to school children, fund a couple of primary schools in Asia which he visits, and has even taught himself to sail a boat just using his chin! Now if we could just harness just a fraction of that spirit in our own lives, then surely we could make this world a far better place! Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au. The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.