Cervical isometrics: A Simple Solution for Neck Pain

Neck pain is a common complaint that affects millions of people worldwide, especially in those who have had a whiplash injury and/or concussion. Whether it is triggered by poor posture, prolonged sitting, or excessive screen time, the discomfort and stiffness in the neck can be debilitating and impact our daily lives. While there are various treatment options available, one often overlooked yet effective technique is cervical isometrics.

What They Are:

Cervical isometrics involve the contraction of specific muscles in the neck without any joint movement. It is a simple exercise that can be performed anywhere, anytime, without the need for any equipment. By strengthening the neck muscles and improving stability, cervical isometrics can help alleviate pain and prevent future episodes of discomfort.

One of the primary benefits of cervical isometrics is its ability to target the deep stabilizing muscles of the neck. These muscles, such as the multifidus and longus colli, play a crucial role in maintaining proper alignment and stability of the cervical spine. Weakness or imbalances in these muscles can lead to strain on the surrounding structures, resulting in pain and dysfunction.

How to Perform:

To perform cervical isometrics, start by sitting or standing in a comfortable position with your spine in a neutral position. Place your hands on your forehead and gently push your head forward while simultaneously resisting the movement with your hands. Hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds, then relax. Repeat this exercise by placing your hands on the back of your head and pushing backward, then on each side of your head pushing laterally.

Another variation of cervical isometrics includes placing your hand on the side of your head and gently resisting as you try to tilt your head towards your shoulder. This exercise targets the lateral flexors of the neck, which are responsible for side-to-side movement. Similarly, you can place your hand on the back of your head and resist as you try to rotate your head to one side. This exercise engages the rotational muscles of the neck.

It is important to note that cervical isometrics should be performed with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional, especially if you have a history of neck injuries or any underlying medical conditions. Start with gentle contractions and gradually increase the intensity as tolerated. If you experience any pain or discomfort during the exercise, stop immediately and seek advice from a qualified healthcare provider.

Additional Options:

In addition to cervical isometrics, it is essential to address the underlying causes of neck pain. This may include improving posture, incorporating regular breaks and stretches during prolonged sitting, and strengthening the surrounding muscles through targeted exercises. A comprehensive approach that combines cervical isometrics with other modalities can provide long-term relief and prevent further episodes of neck pain.

Final Thoughts:

Cervical isometrics offer a simple and effective solution for neck pain. By targeting the deep stabilizing muscles of the neck, these exercises can improve strength and stability, providing relief from discomfort and preventing future episodes. However, it is crucial to practice them with caution and seek professional guidance if needed.


Dr. Etheredge is a physical therapist who specializes in treating patients with headaches, neck pain and dizziness. Many of her patients have multiple diagnoses and complex needs. Dr. Etheredge is certified and dry needling and has been using this modality for years to assist her patients in achieving their goals. Learn more about Dr. Etheredge here .