November 22, 2021

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Neck Assessment

Learn how to check yourself to see if you are moving like you should. If you have issues, I'll show you step-by-step how to fix them!

Check Yourself: Neck Assessments

The Neck Assessment is part of my new blog series, titled ----"Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself". In this series, I will be teaching mobility self-assessments and corrective exercise stretches. You will learn how to check the function of different areas of your body. If you find a problem, I will teach you step-by-step how to improve the movement in these areas.

Today I want to demonstrate three self-assessments for the neck. Those are:

  • Neck flexion
  • Left neck rotation
  • Right neck rotation

Neck Flexion Assessment / Corrective Actions

The first self-assessment/test - for Neck Flexion - is shown in the video above. The goal of this assessment is to be able to touch your chin to your chest without separating your teeth (opening your jaw) in order to accomplish that.

This is a test that many people will not be able to do. Many of us, due to sitting and working on computers or looking at our other technology, become tight in areas that restrict this motion.

An inability to pass this test means that you are at increased risk for neck pain in general. You're possibly also prone to getting tension headaches, migraines, and jaw pain. If you're unable to pass this test, try the corrections listed below.

The first correction is shown in the video above. It requires the use of a "peanut" which is made by simply taping either two tennis balls or two lacrosse balls together.

There are two main muscle groups we want to target to help improve the Neck Flexion range of motion. The first are the muscles at the base of your skull.

  • To target these muscles, you want to roll the peanut in a very small area: from just a little bit above your hairline to about 2 inches below that area. Spend about 60 to 90 seconds doing this. These muscles are some of the most common muscles indicated in tension headaches and migraines. They also play a big role in how your jaw moves, so if you're tight here, that may be contributing to some pain in your jaw.
  • The second group that we want to target are the muscles that tilt our head backwards. These start a couple of inches below where the neck and upper back meet and run up just a little bit above the middle of the neck. For this area, start the peanut about 3 inches below where a t-shirt collar would hit you, and roll the peanut from there till about the middle of your neck. You'll want to spend about 60 to 90 seconds doing this.

Once you have finished this corrective action, repeat the test. You'll notice that you'll be able to bring your chin down closer to your chest.

Doing this once may not immediately enable you to pass this test, but if you work at it for just a week or two, you will likely be able to pass the test.

Left and Right Neck Rotation

The second self assessment looks at your ability to rotate your head from side to side. For this test, you're going to slowly turn your nose one direction as far as you can. Once you get as far as you can, try to bring your chin downwards to touch your collarbone. To pass this test, you should be able to touch your chin to about the middle of your collarbone on each side.

The muscles that restrict this movement are very commonly indicated in general neck tightness, neck pain, and tightness due to stress. If you're unable to pass this test, try the corrections below.

  • The first correction involves using a lacrosse ball or a tennis ball to break up any tightness in the muscles at the top of your shoulders.
  • To start, place the ball on top of the ridge of muscle that runs on the top of your shoulder on one side. Next, you will lean forward next to a door frame or the corner of a wall and lean in so that the lacrosse ball or tennis ball presses in on the muscles of the top of the shoulder. You will roll up and down and left and right for 60 to 90 seconds in order to loosen up these muscles.
  • The second correction for this assessment is a stretch of your upper trapezius muscles.
  • To start, you're going to sit in a chair and grab the bottom of the chair on the affected side. You will slowly lean away from that side - this will help pull your shoulder blade downwards. Next, lean your ear away from that side and then grab onto your head with your opposite arm to help increase the stretch. Hold that stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side.
  • The third and final correction is a stretch of a muscle called the levator scapulae. The setup for this is very similar to the upper trapezius stretch.
  • Start by sitting in a chair and grabbing the bottom of the chair on your affected side. Next, slowly lean away from that side to help pull your shoulder blade down. Next, you will turn your nose away from that side about halfway and then grab the back of your head and pull your chin down towards your collarbone on the opposite side. You'll hold this stretch for 10 seconds and repeat three times on each side.

Once you finish this stretch, repeat the self-assessment. Like I said with the first self-assessment, doing this once may not immediately enable you to pass the test - but if you work on these stretches for at least 2 weeks, you should see great improvement on this test!

So there it is. That's my first entry for this new blog series entitled "Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself!" Make sure you stay tuned to future blogs for the next part in this series. The things you'll learn will allow you to take control of how your body moves and help you to eliminate pain yourself!


"Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself" Course - Available here on my Website under "Courses" Tab

In collaboration with Zac King, I have an extended online course of the same name for anyone who is interested. This course has many self-assessments for the rest of the body and self-corrections to help improve any areas that are problematic. We're offering a special promotion for anyone who would like to sign up for the course and get $10 off! --- That makes the Entire Course only $29.99!

Get signed up today if you want to take control of your movement and eliminate pain on your own! Click the following link to sign up today:

And don't forget - if you run into any issues, or if your neck isn't responding as you wish, MovLab is here to help at any point in your neck rehab work - Mobility is our specialty! Just call us at 918.300.4084 to schedule your next appointment - you'll be glad you did!

Article written by Dr. John H. Keefe IV

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