How To Self-Assess Proper Neck Rotation In 2 Easy Steps (And Practice To Make Yours Better)

Photo: Stocksy/Jennifer Brister
You might not think much about proper neck rotation if you're not experiencing pain at the moment. But you should be taking the time to regularly self-assess how your cervical spine moves, according to Vinh Pham, PT, physical therapist and founder of Myodetox.

"As we age, all our joint structures degenerate over time, some faster than others, depending on our postural choices and movement patterns. One area that's particularly susceptible to degenerating quickly is the cervical spine (neck) due to the fact that we frequently move our head every day, from checking our blind spot while we drive to using our smartphone," he shared on Instagram. "I always stress the importance of alignment, and the neck is no exception. Having good spine/ribcage alignment is the foundation upon which good movement patterns sit."

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Pham says just because rotating your neck isn't painful doesn't mean you're moving optimally. "There's space to improve for everyone, and when it comes to the neck, the price you pay for years of wear and tear from poor movement patterns is just not worth it," he says. That's where self-assessing your neck comes in and learning what proper neck rotation actually looks like.

How to self-assess your neck rotation

To self-assess your neck rotation, follow two easy steps:

  1. Sit up straight.
  2. Rotate your neck left and right.

While you're rotating, focus on how your neck feels and what your body is doing as you're rotating. If you extend back when you rotate, he says you have forward head posture and recruit your extrinsic (or superficial) neck muscles too much and don’t recruit your intrinsic (or deeper) neck muscles enough. If you flex forward, on the other hand, he says you over-recruit your extrinsic cervical rotators.

Whether you're extending back, flexing forward, or have pretty good alignment, it's always important to practice proper neck rotation in order to keep your neck and body in top-notch condition. And there's a simple way to do so.


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How to practice proper neck rotation

In order to rotate your neck properly, Pham recommends grabbing a pillow. "Practice rotating your neck slowly with your arms elevated using a pillow. This will reduce the passive stretch on your upper traps/levator scapula, which will make it easier for you to rotate cleanly," he said. "Think of it as a regression. If you can’t squat with weights cleanly, practice squats using only your body weight. Similarly, if you can’t rotate cleanly, practice rotations with a pillow under your arms."

You can practice proper neck rotation in three easy steps:

  1. Sit up straight.
  2. Hug a pillow and elevate your arms.
  3. Rotate your neck left and right.

With a little practice, you'll be able to get to the point of properly rotating your neck in every day life. It's something that might not seem super important to you now, but like Pham says, you'll definitely be thanking yourself later.

Next, do this head, neck, and shoulder stretch to loosen things up:

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