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Top 3 Tools: Overcoming Neck Pain

The Cervical Spine With Physical Therapist Todd Robbins

Today I am going to talk about the cervical spine.  Your cervical spine is more commonly known as your neck.  It is the seven bones that hold your head up and allow it to move around.  In between each of these bones is a disc that allows for movement and helps attach the bones to each other.  Coming out from there are your cervical nerves that travel all the way down each of your arms to your fingertips. 

The cervical spine is a HUGELY important part of your body!  I always tell my patients that your spine is like the foundation on your house:  If you don’t have a good strong foundation, the rest of the rooms like the arms and legs just aren’t going to work well.  Having a strong healthy cervical spine is key to overall health. 

Tool number 1:  A mirror or a smart phone.

Posture is such a key for spine health.  Nobody has perfect posture but If you can keep your spine aligned properly for as much of the day as possible, you will be winning the war against gravity.  I want to give you some key things to think about with regards to how you position your body and some tips on how to check it. 

Lets keep this simple and just give you two posture thoughts for your cervical spine.

  1. Be as tall as possible
  2. Draw your head back

The only way to determine if you are in position number one (wrong) or position number two (right) is to look in a mirror or have someone take a picture of you.  Many phone cases are magnetic now and this is a great way to use it on a hunk of metal to take a picture of your posture without anyone’s help at all!  You have to see where your body is.

Tool number 2- a doorway

This is a great tool to use because if you are in doors you probably came in through a doorway.  They are everywhere!  All humans on the planet should be doing this activity because gravity is always pulling our head and shoulders down towards the ground.  I tell my patients, wherever the head goes the shoulders go.  Wherever the shoulders go, the head goes.  This causes tightness in the muscles in the front of the body and weakness in the muscles in the back of the body.  Gravity keeps pulling and a vicious cycle turns us into the hunched over little old man or woman we have all seen. 

The doorway will fight this vicious cycle and keep you in good posture.  I want to give you the doorway stretch to use at home. 

Just get in a doorway with your ams against the door frame like this:

Relax into the doorway and hold that position for 60-90 seconds.  This shouldn’t be painful and you shouldn’t be trying to stretch as hard as you can.  Just a comfortable tension is all you need. 

This is an activity that every human walking upright should be doing EVERY DAY!  Just start making it a habit and get after it!

Tool number 3:  a lacrosse ball

My final tool for the cervical spine is simple but effective.  As humans we keep so much tension in our neck and shoulders.  I tell my patients they all come in looking like this (shoulders up) and I want them to leave looking like this (shoulders down).  The key muscles that pull our shoulders up like this are our trapezius muscles.  They elevate the shoulders and are almost always tense and in spasm. 

Almost everyone can use a little tissue release in this area.  We do this in our clinic with our hands all the time, but I want to give you a tool you can use at home. 

Our third tool is a Lacrosse ball or hard foam ball like I have here.  A tennis ball is usually a little too soft and a baseball can be a little hard, but everyone has their own sensitivity to pressure so use what works best. 

Here is what I want you to do with the ball:

Lay on top of it and find those “knots” in your upper shoulder and lower neck.  I find it is particularly good to raise your arm overhead like I am in this picture.  There should be a good amount of pressure but not too much.  Try to move the ball around under your muscle tissue and work out those tight spots. 

You can lay on top of it for 1-2 minutes or longer depending on how you feel.  Just tenderize that big trap muscle!

Wrap-Up and special offer.

If you have any pain or problems with these activities, this is a message telling you something is wrong. If you had difficulty doing them, you should get evaluated by a medical professional.  Especially now healthcare is expensive and I don’t want that to be a barrier to you feeling better.  As part of this video series, I am going to extend an offer to you. 

One:  if you know you have a significant issue and need physical therapy, call our office at 908.454.2404 and we will get you set up for an initial evaluation with our team and get you back on track. Or you can schedule HERE

Two:  If you aren’t sure if you need PT or not, we offer a FREE 30-minute evaluation to all of our Top Three Tools watcher.  After 30 minutes you will know what is bothering you and have a plan for what to do next. 

Three:  The best thing for you to do if you are having any issues is to get in front of a physical therapist, in person.  If you feel you cant do that right now for whatever reason, we offer a Free 10 Minute Virtual Evaluation.  You don’t even need to leave your house to talk with a physical therapist and get answers.  You can schedule this by calling our office or going to our website to learn more.

Thank you for being a part of our Top Three Tools series at Robbins Rehabilitation East.  You have taken the first step to feeling better, moving better, and LIVING better!  Now you just need to perform the activities in the video in order to make it WORK for you!

I look forward to seeing you soon, either on your screen or in our offices.  Be Healthy! 

-Todd Robbins


Todd Robbins


"We Help Individuals Live Pain-Free, Move Better, and End Their Frustration With The Right Diagnosis And Personalized Care"