The health of your cervical spine is crucial as it allows all range of motion of your head and neck. Have you ever thought about how your daily activities, like looking at a smart phone or staring at a computer, could be putting your neck mobility at risk? You may be surprised to know it is also the most thin and fragile bone in your body. Because such a small bone has such a big job, it is important to exercise and or massage this area of your body regularly to promote healthy blood flow to the surrounding muscles that protect it.
To maintain optimal cervical spine health, you must ensure your neck movement is always functional within the normal movement ranges:
Flexion This movement involves touching the chin to the chest, this normal range of motion is 80-90 degrees
Extension This movement is the opposite direction of flexion, with a normal range of motion of 70 degrees
Lateral Flexion This movement involves titling the neck as if you are trying to touch your ear to your shoulder, the normal range of motion is 20-45 degrees, being equal on each side
Rotation This movement occurs when looking over the shoulder, with a normal range of motion of 90 degrees, being equal on each side
Effects of Cervical Spine Imbalances
There are seven vertebrae in the cervical spine, connected by paired facet joints that allow the neck to move side-to-side, and up and down. These vertebrae are cushioned by six cervical discs that act as shock absorbers and provide flexibility in neck movement.
Overtime, wear and tear on the facet joints and cervical discs can lead to health problems such as stiff neck, head-aches, cervical spinal stenosis, or even osteoarthritis. The spinal cord also runs through the cervical spine and is responsible for millions of nerve processes vital to our health. Any disruptions inside the spinal canal can cause various neurological concerns such as numbness in the extremities or muscular weakness.
The most common issues related to cervical spine imbalances are postural. These occur most often in individuals who are on a computer, or smart device for extended periods of time on a regular basis. In this position the body is hunched over, shoulders are rounded, and neck is tilted down. Related muscles will start to tighten when shortened (front of the neck) and weaken as they are lengthened (back of the neck), causing postural imbalances that lead to neck and back pain, headaches, or even injury.
SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Assessment) for Cervical Spine Screening
It is important to assess the health of your cervical spine and range of motion in order to prevent these various health issues that result from poor maintenance. SFMA is, “A systematic way to identify the vital impairments of mobility and motor control associated with functional movement patterns complicated by pain” (functionalmovement.com) This test allows your chiropractor to assess pain and problems areas related to the cervical spine through three different exercises that activate the seven vertebrae, six cervical discs, and surrounding muscles.
These exercises are:
Active Cervical Flexion Active Cervical Extension Cervical Rotation Bend
Each exercise is given one of four scores based on the ability to perform and pain level; FN (functional and non-painful), EP (functional and painful), DP (dysfunctional and painful), DN (dysfunctional and non-painful). These cervical movement patterns are then broken down and scored in each exercise.
This system ensures that the source of discomfort or restricted movement is clearly defined and a rehabilitation method can most effectively be put into place. The areas that are causing the most pain are addressed first, and then on to areas of restricted movement, and finally a focus on optimizing cervical spine movement ranges and increasing muscle strength.
Corrective Treatments and Exercises (See Video Below)
There are several corrective treatments and exercises that can be done with the assistance of your chiropractor to promote a strong, healthy cervical spine. Maintenance of this area of your body will prevent a number of health issues such as chronic headaches, stiffness, and pain.
Dr. Myers has a video on the way that will show you exactly what some of these exercises are…
Dr. Tri Myers
Omega Chiropractic Sports Performance and Nutrition