How Far Should I be Able to Turn My Neck?

You probably found my article because you searched “I can’t turn my neck while driving”, “why does my neck feel restricted?” or “how far should I be able to turn my neck?”. These are all questions that we should know the answers to. This is a quick 2 minute read that will help you find the root of your problems that you are experiencing with your neck.

woman holding her neck in pain
neck pain

Today we will discuss 3 things:

  1. the most important functions of your neck
  2. the range of motion you should expect of your neck
  3. 3 tips on maintaining range of motion of your neck especially while you age

First let’s study the anatomy of the neck!

Your neck is made up of 7 bones called cervical vertebra. These bones create a platform for your skull to sit on-top of. Not only do these bones provide structure, but they also provide protection for your spinal cord. Your neck follows a “C” shaped curve, and this curve allows for the least amount of pressure or tension to be put on your spinal cord. With less tension and less pressure on your spinal cord, your brain can communicate more effectively with the rest of your body, allowing for optimal function and optimal health. When your bones are not in alignment the surrounding soft tissues cramp up and prevent normal range of motion, often accompanied by pain.

Now that we understand anatomy, let’s talk about range of motion.

Your neck range of motion should not negatively impact your daily activities such as checking your blind spot or washing your hair. If your neck feels restricted here are some guidelines for normal range of motion of the neck. Get out your protractors!

Flexion (bring your chin down to your chest)

Extension (look up at the sky)

Lateral Flexion (bend to the side bringing your ear to your shoulder) 

Rotation (turn your head and look over your shoulder) 

Now that you have checked your range of motion, lets discuss 3 tips to maintain your range of motion as you age. 

The first step you can take is to stretch out your tight neck muscles daily. Focus on stretching the upper trapezius, scalene and sternocleidomastoid muscles on both sides.  

Hold each stretch for a count of 20-30 seconds.  

The second step you can take is to monitor your posture. Is your head falling forward while you’re doing dishes, driving, or doing your homework? It is very important to keep your ears lined up with your shoulders. When your ears fall in front of your shoulders it puts increased stress across the joints of the spine. This uneven stress can lead to permanent abnormal posture, a decreased range of motion and eventually degeneration of the spine. Get a loved one to take a photo of you from the side to see what your posture looks like.

The third step you can take is to get your range of motion and posture checked by a specialist. Fortunately, decreased range of motion can be an early sign that something is wrong. By getting your spine checked by one of our CBP® Chiropractors you can get to the root of the cause. Our board certified Doctors of Chiropractic will help you understand what is causing your restricted range of motion. By identifying the cause, we can design specific care that might include spinal adjustments, stretches (traction) and exercises that will get you back to checking your blind spot safely.

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