Neck Retraction Exercise – Why Do It?

You basically perform a retraction exercise to undo the cumulative effects of sitting with your chin poking too far forward for long periods of time. It is not uncommon in today’s world to spend prolonged periods in front of a computer screen at work, then our mobile phone in our breaks and commute and then sit in front of a TV screen or tablet at home.

All of these activities ‘pull’ us into an unnatural position…

This is what is commonly known as a ‘poking chin’ or ‘flexed neck’ or even ‘text neck’ posture.

This self-help post is part of the How To Untie Your Muscle Knots series of posts. Please follow the link back to that post to get more advice about what else you can do to get rid of pains and tightness in your upper back and neck.

According to the NHS

Hunching over your keyboard is usually a sign that you have a tight chest and a weak upper back.

Over time, this type of posture can contribute to you developing a rounded upper back, which can cause shoulder and upper back stiffness.

When hunching over a computer, your head may tend to lean forward, which can lead to poor posture. Using a mobile can cause similar problems dubbed “text neck”.

How To Do The Exercise

Sit upright with a good spinal position.

What do I mean by this?

Try and sit with your lower back slightly arched as if you were making room to tuck the back of your hand behind your back. Don’t go too far though!

From this neutral position, place your fingers in front of your chin and then the movement is to gently move your head backwards to take your chin away from your fingers. Be careful not to tilt your head back as you do this. Tim explains this well in the video below. I always imagine it as ‘closing a drawer’ in a kitchen unit!

Should The Retraction Exercise Hurt?

Absolutely not!

You should stop the retraction (backwards sliding movement) before you feel any pain.

Upper Neck Flexion And Extension

In the video Tim talks about upper and lower cervical flexion and extension but what does he mean?

In the neck (cervical spine) flexion is a forward bending of the bones on top of each other and extension is the opposite.

Because of the shape of your neck (slight ‘S’ bend) the upper and lower spine can move in opposite directions! Look at the image below from musculoskeletalkey.com

When your chin is poking forwards (Diagram A) the upper spine is in extension (blue curve) and the lower in flexion (red curve).

If you perform the retraction exercise then the opposite is true: upper flexion, lower extension. This position helps to alleviate the cumulative stress of position A.

Discs In The Neck

Tim talks about the stress on the discs due to the flexed position of the neck and here is an MRI of a neck from the Mayfield Clinic with bulging discs at C5 and C6 (arrowed).

An MRI shows the soft tissues in the neck like the discs and the spinal cord and nerves and even to the untrained eye, you can clearly see the backward bulging of the discs which would almost certainly cause pain and or tingling/weakness in the arm(s).

If you have any pain in your arm or perhaps tingling in your fingers then please contact me before trying this exercise.

Either phone me on 07980 898414 or use the Facebook Messenger link at the bottom of the page.

I am happy to give you advice on what to do next.

How often should I do this Retraction Exercise?

If you are sitting a lot at work or at home then perhaps consider doing this simple exercise a few times every hour.

In this video, Tim Keely explains about posture and how it can give you upper neck pain and even headaches and what you can do about correcting the effects of prolonged ‘poking chin’ posture.