(Pre) Activate Your Neck Mobility

First, a thorough assessment is necessary to determine where the dysfunction lies.  Treating symptoms never leads to positive long-term outcomes.  Cervical patients are never just cervical patients.

I have found the SFMA to be a very valuable tool in this manner.  Specifically, I have encountered many of these tight cervical spines that are really a stability problem, not a mobility problem.

What do you do after you find a cervical stability problem?

There is an infinite amount of ways to address this issue.  One consistent intervention that seems to work well is the pre-activated neck mobility.  I learned this from the SFMA/TPI 4x4 Matrix approach.  You simply have the patient pre-activate their scapula stabilizers, then move their neck in a pain free motion.

Benefits of Pre-Activated Cervical Mobility:
  • Proximal stability
  • Dissociation of cervical and scapula muscles
  • Anchors scapula to allow for perception of stretch in shorter, less provocative, ROM
  • Can help teach non-threatening cervical motion

There are many variations of this exercise - different arm positions, different cervical motion, different postures.  You may need to do some trial and error to find the right corrective for your patient.  Just keep it pain free, make sure they dissociate, and move slowly.

Contributed by Dr. Aaron Swanson, DPT, CSCS


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