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Strengthening Neck Muscles May Be Key To Minimizing Injuries
by Dr. John Nash, D.C.
Koala Wellness Centers Inc.

With the recent major changes in health care, physicians have come to a better understanding of the Wellness Principle. This concept recognizes that each individual has a responsibility to live each day in a manner which contributes to good bodily function. The summative effects of lifestyle do in fact influence well being.

This Wellness Principle, in a large segment of society, is only vaguely understood and certainly not practiced. The result is that wellness is negatively impacted. Complicating this scenario even further, when an injury occurs, even some minor types, the bodily tissues need special provisions to overcome reactions to the injury. In truth, soft tissue injuries of this variety have been shown to be much more important to residual problems than those injuries such as fractures which are properly treated with good result. Soft tissues include mainly the ligaments, muscles, and tendons.

We are all aware of volumes of scientific information about care of the low back with stretching and exercise, accompanied by proper lifting techniques. Much of the information which has been printed about the low back is also useful in caring for the neck since the general principles are applicable.

Specifically, the neck must be exercised and stretched to compensate for summative repetitive stresses of the workplace. Each workplace is unique, presenting challenges to the system of muscles, tendons and ligaments. These tissues ideally respond to motion through a predictable range of movement, it becomes evident that long periods of restricted motion, forced motions which exceed the normal range, will contribute to discomfort in the neck or shoulders since the muscles span that region. Additionally, there are two modifiers, which will accentuate this problem. One is where forces are applied such as those experienced in whiplash effects of rear-end car accidents. Another is where the head is placed in the extreme normal motion and held there for a prolonged period. This is often best understood as looking out of the airplane window for a great view of the scene below. As the head is held there for a long time, pain and stiffness occurs as the head is returned to neutral.

Strength information is now available indicating normal levels of muscle performance for each group of small muscles, known as intrinsics, which are responsible for postural control of the head. When weak, these muscles shift the responsibility of head support to other large muscles which are not able to perform properly since they consist of different cells than the intrinsics. Intrinsics contain cells which contract for long periods of time with small force, whereas large muscles consist of cells which contract for short periods of time, but very forcefully. As the large muscle attempts to work as an intrinsic, it produces cramp like reactions that become part of the neck complaint.

It is critical in the wellness concept for the neck that all of the above be applied under the guidance of one trained in this field.




Weight Training
Lat Pulldowns
Pulldowns are a great exercise for the back muscles but avoid pulling the bar behind the head. Pull the bar down in front of the body toward the collar bone and with the bar just below your chin. Pulling the bar behind the head puts undue stress on the shoulders and rotator cuff.
Running
Avoiding Shin Splints
Do you have lower leg pain or shin splints from running? Running on hard surfaces, worn out running shoes and weak calf muscles could be the culprit. Try running on soft trails, buying a new pair of running shoes or adding calf exercises to your weight training routine.
Walking
The Talk Test
A great way to make sure you are staying in your aerobic fat-burning range is the talk test. If you cannot comfortably carry on a conversation with your walking partner you probably need to bring down the intensity to assure yourself that you are burning fat.
Fat Burning
Your Anaerobic Threshold
A great way to make sure you are burning fat during cardio sessions is knowing your anaerobic threshold or where your heart rate zone needs to be to burn fat stores. Find a gym or fitness center that offers anaerobic/VO2 testing. Merlino Fitness offers anaerobic threshold testing every month. Check out the link below for more details.
Merlino Fitness Metabolic Testing
Nutrition
Keys to Weight Loss
If you are trying to drop weight make sure you incorporate the following to get you on your way. Drink lots of water, don't skip meals (especially breakfast), do not eat late night meals or snacks after 7 or 8 pm and build as much activity into your everyday life as you can. Michael also recommends joining weight watchers to anyone trying to lose weight and keep it off long term.
Nutritional Supplements
Stay Away From Ephedra!
The weight loss/energy supplement is in the news again. Supplement companies that market this controversial supplement claim it is safe although many have died from this dangerous supplement. Make sure you check the labels of your nutritional supplements as many are laced with ephedra, also known as ephedrine or ma huang (the actual herbal).
Quick Tip Archives
Our archived collection of fitness and nutrition tips to help you stay focused and fit.
Tip Archives

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Ice Cream Sandwiches
Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
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Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
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Our latest collection of on-line articles to help you stay focuses and fit.
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Pamela from Chihuahua, MexicoI work out 5 days a week and can't loose weight. I do spinning, tae bo and many types of cardio. Where am I going wrong?
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Nutrition
Ross from Sidney, AustraliaI am currently trying to eat six small meals per day. Apart from breakfast and dinner, I always seem to forget or skip my meals during the day. I also need some simple, easy meals (snacks) that do not require refrigeration or preparation, apart from the obvious fruits.
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