Body Care for Dancers: Exercises for reducing risk of neck injury

Posted on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 3:19PM

In my last blog post I discussed the common causes of neck injury for dancers. In this post I outline some simple exercises for reducing this risk. These exercises can be performed before class or during the warm up. For consistent results, they must be performed regularly. Remember, no exercise fixes all the problems. As I highlighted in last week’s blog, the neck is connected to almost every part of the body. The following exercises address common restrictions that are easily helped. If you continue to experience neck pain after 2-3 weeks, seek help from a qualified specialist who can accurately determine the cause.

#1 Neck Strength:
Last week we discussed two tests that looked at the strength of the deep neck flexors and SCM. These tests also serve as exercises for strengthening the muscle groups. For muscle strength, increase the reps to 10-15, with 3-5 second holds. Please be careful, as these muscles are rarely used and can get sore with very little effort. Ease your way into these with 1-2 sets at a time. In the beginning, more is not better.

#2 Thoracic Spine Mobility:
A) Place a foam roller or a lacrosse ball in the middle of your back, tuck your elbows in and place your hands behind your head to support the neck, and then roll up and down the spine. You are on a seek-and-destroy mission to find tight restricted joints and muscles. Once you locate the most restricted area, stop and extend over that area. Using the lacrosse ball or foam roller as the fulcrum point, hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat the exercise for at least two minutes. When initially starting these exercises it is best to perform them several times daily. There is less benefit performing them longer, as it is the repetition of the exercise that provides for more consistent outcomes.


B) Using a foam roller, or another item that can keep the hip neutral, lay on your side with the top leg bent, hips and shoulder stacked. Begin by reaching forward with the top hand. Continue reaching and imagine you are drawing a large circle on the floor with your hand as with a pen. Once your arm/hand reaches directly above your head, flip your hand open so your palm is facing the ceiling. Press back with the shoulder towards the ground and keep your top leg glued to the roller. The goal is to get both shoulders touching the ground while the knee keeps contact with the foam roller. Repeat this exercise 3 times on both sides. This exercise is more effective after performing the previous exercise.

As a general rule of thumb, focus on basic mobility first and then strength. If the joint doesn’t move well then you cannot strengthen it. Proper motion is essential for avoiding enforcing compensation and poor movement patterns. Keep in mind that it is best to perform the thoracic mobility exercises before moving onto the neck strengthening exercises.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions at lstephe03@gmail.com. Next week I will highlight the importance of Vitamin D and its effect on performance.

Lindsay Stephens DC, CCSP
Doctor @ Chiro-Medical Group
246 1st Street, Suite 101
San Francisco, CA 94105
P: (415) 495-2225


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