"The importance of the deep stabilizing musculature of the neck for spinal segmental support and control has been demonstrated and clinical research indicates that many patients with neck pain have inadequate support from these muscles. Insufficiency in the pre-programmed activation of the cervical muscles, altered motor control recruitment patterns, and increased fatigability have also been found in patients with neck pain. Further, the measured increased activation of the superficial cervical musculature in those with neck pain is thought to be a compensation for poor passive or active segmental support (1)."
The deep stabilizing muscles of the neck are equivocally important as the deep stabilizing muscles of the low back. Similar to how the big superficial muscles of the back can become too active with low back pain, the same principle can be applied to the neck. The upper trapezius, levator scapulae, sternocleidomastoid, and scalenes are potential 'global' muscles that end up trying to do the job of the small stabilizing muscles, like the multifidi and longus colli. CHECK OUT the small anatomy video clip in the bottom right where you can truly appreciate the amount of layers of muscle in the neck region (essential anatomy 5 app).
According to the Neck Pain: Clinical Practice Guidelines - it has been recommended with strong evidence for clinicians to consider cervical stabilization exercises. Demonstrated here is a great exercise to start out with. There are important tips to consider with this exercises.
1. You can use a resistance band or even a shoe-string
2. Think about applying a very gradual, small force
3. If you feel every muscle in your neck and upper back working, you are doing way too much
4. Try it out, tag a friend or colleague, and remember less is more!
Be sure to have sound on and let us know what you think!
Citation: (1) Eythor Kristjansson, Julia Treleaven 2009. "Sensorimotor Function and Dizziness in Neck Pain: Implications for Assessment and Management"