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Your neck is the most flexible part of your spine. That’s why neck pain is so common and troubles so many people in a variety of different ways... Author:

Igor Borschenko, MD, PhD

What this book is about?

Your neck is the most flexible part of your spine. It’s easy to abuse! That’s why neck pain is so common and troubles so many people in a variety of different ways. Sharp pain, nagging pain, muscle spasms, headaches and even visual changes can all be symptoms of problems in the cervical spine.  Diseases such as vegetovascular dystonia (VVD), vertebrobasilar insufficiency (VBI) and cervico-occipital pain are commonly associated with cervical spine damage.

The approach shown by Doctor Borschenko in his isometric exercises is an effective way to get rid of chronic pain and prevent the development of further disease.  A special no-impact training of the ligaments and muscles of the cervical spine allows the stiffened and painful vertebrae to regain their freedom of movement and restores pain-free function.

Static-isometric exercises do not include routines that punish and torture the vertebrae and intervertebral discs like so many other exercise programs. This gentler form of exercise can easily be done by just about anyone. It’s entirely possible to strengthen ligaments and muscles without overloading the joints simply by assuming certain positions. No-impact positions.

These exercises can easily done by elderly individuals or by people who lead a sedentary lifestyle. Those who have undergone cervical spine surgery or those who suffer from chronic pain syndrome can easily follow the instructions and benefit from the routines.   

Young and active people can also incorporate the exercises into their physical training plan to effectively strengthen their cervical spine and slow down the normal aging process of the spine. Only a few minutes of isometric gymnastics a day will restore flexibility, improve the health of the spine and help reduce pain and muscle spasms.

Devote a few minutes a day to isometrics to restore the proper functioning of your cervical vertebrae and get rid of those tiresome aches and pains forever.

If you don’t run while you are healthy, you will have to run when you get sick. (Horatio)
Nonnocere!
Do not harm!
(Latin aphorism)


What exercise routine is right for me?

Many doctors recommend that their patients be intentional about devoting time to physical activity and exercise to strengthen their spine, back and accessory muscles. Most of agree this is an excellent idea. We’re ready to start an exercise routine immediately, even it means sweating our way to better health and wellness. We all know in our hearts, if not in our spines, that our overall health depends on physical activity. So why don’t we follow our doctor’s recommendation? Why don’t we do the things our hearts and our backs are telling us to do?

There are many reasons. Some reasons are entirely valid and others are just excuses. Many times, questions come up at the very start of wellness training sessions. No one answers our questions to our liking, so the whole prospect of pursuing a healthier life gets shelved.  Another problem that often occurs is that beginning an exercise routine starts to aggravate an existing condition. The result of that aggravation is pain. Pain leads to fear, our fear leads us to abandon totally the program we started.  And it’s nearly impossible to begin a program again once you’ve been frightened.

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What is isometric exercise?

Once you have some basic understanding about how the muscles in your body work, isometric exercises are easy to learn. For example, bend your arm at the elbow. You can feel your biceps contracting. You can even touch the muscle of the biceps. In active biceps, tension is steady, or isotonic. The Latin prefix “iso” means “equal.” The muscle was steadily contracting and this caused the arm to move. This movement resulted in a bone changing a position, the weight of the arm remaining unchanged and a muscle contracting. The cartilage of one bone slides along the cartilage of another one as the muscle contracts. The cartilage layer is very thin. It is susceptible to wear and tear and it ages at the same rate you do!

Think about the joint cartilage in a piece of chicken. You’ll never find a blood vessel in the cartilage. This is because the cartilage is fed by soaking up nutrients from a neighboring bone. This process takes a very long time, so once cartilage is injured, recovery is very unlikely. When the joint cartilage layer grows thin or has worn away, the bones literally begin rubbing against each other. That’s when cracking, creaking and a tremendous amount of pain start to occur. This is what happens in the case of degenerative joint disease. This condition is especially frequent in people who have worked hard at tasks involving heavy physical labor. People whose joints have sustained this kind of damage simply cannot perform traditional physical exercises. It hurts too much!

Here’s another way to think about placing a load on a joint: try to tense your shoulder biceps without moving your arm. In this case, there is no movement in the joint, but the muscles, tendons and joint ligaments are loaded. This mode of the muscle’s action is called isometric. What is constant or steady in this case is the length of the muscle. Most people can understand the word static. So try to think of isometric exercise as meaning static exercise. You assume a certain position and “statically,” or steadily, without any movement, tense certain muscles. This type of exercise is also sometimes called positional. Maintaining the necessary position makes certain muscles and ligaments work. Even without any movement in the joint, without cartilage having to rub against each other, you can train muscles. 

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Wow! Work muscles and spare your joints at the same time? Awesome! This joint-sparing feature is only the first benefit of isometric-static-positional exercise!

Did you ever notice that everything in life alternates? Joy alternates with grief. Work alternates with rest. Tension alternates with relaxation. Contraction alternates with stretching. You can think of other examples yourself.  Think about how good it feels to relax and stretch after work.

So let’s continue our physiological experiments. After tensing your biceps, relax your arm and remember this feeling. Now, do this exercise again: tense your biceps in an isometric-static mode. To do this, apply pressure to your forearm with your other hand, as if you are trying to bend your arm at the elbow, but meanwhile don’t let it move by holding it with your other hand. Keep this position of a tensed bicep for 10-20 seconds.

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Now turn your back to the wall and place the palm of the previously tensed arm on it, fingers facing downwards. Completely straighten the elbow joint and slowly squat. You will feel your bicep muscle that has been statically tensed before, begin to stretch. It will feel nice. Pleasant! Don’t overdo this stretching, ten seconds is enough. Now, straighten your arm and feel your biceps relax: it will relax much better, more than after usual movements.  This unique method of relaxation has a specific name: post-isometric relaxation.

It’s easy to see how this works. Isometric-static exercise lets the muscles relax more efficiently, so it’s an excellent technique to use to release painful spasms in a muscle, joints or in the spine. 

Isometric-static-positional-sparing exercise takes place when muscles are tensed without movement. These exercises spare wear and tear on joint cartilage and help to prevent degenerative disease. When performing isometric exercises, muscle tension is followed by stretching. This makes it a useful effective technique to reduce pain and effectively deal with muscle spasms. Isometric exercise can zero in on a specific zone and assassinate problems. It is able to put load on the target muscle and at the same time, train it and provide it with the opportunity to relax. This method can be used even if other disease is present and for the prevention of joint and spinal disorders.

Summary

The practice of isometric exercise means:

  • The application of static, positional load without joint movement
  • It saves wear and tear on joint cartilage
  • Post-isometric relaxation allows muscles to relax effectively, reducing pain and relieving muscle spasms

Keeping your Spine in Correct Alignment

The expression of beauty is not only a privilege granted to artists and musicians. The beauty of the body is expressed through physiological functioning and health. When we say a person is beautiful, we imagine a body with smooth curves of the back, but if the curvature of the spine is excessive, the “hump” becomes ugly. On the other hand, a perfectly flat back seems distasteful to us as well. The idea of beauty is best explained by the concept of health: a spine with the correct form easily bears vibrations and variations in the gait while walking by absorbing them through its curves. It’s hard to imagine the bumps and blows that would be transmitted to the spinal cord and to the brain if it wasn’t for the curve of the spine.

Healthy discs can only be maintained in a spine with the right curves. The discs between the vertebrae are complex structures, each having an extremely elastic cartilage core. Like tennis balls, discs bounce and are able to soften the blows that occur during movement. The core is located in the center of each disc. If the curvature of the spine is correct, pressure is evenly distributed inside the disc and the core remains centered. 

If the normal curvature of the spine is altered, for example, if you suddenly bend from the lower back, the tension in the disc will become uneven. One of its parts will become over-stressed and may even crack. The core of the disc can then begin to bulge out through this crack and results in a herniated disc. The bulging portion of the disc then pushes against spinal nerves and back pain results. 

Now you know why sleeping on a hard bed is so uncomfortable. Some people even try sleeping on the floor or on wooden planks in an effort to find relief from pain and muscle spasms. It’s completely unnatural! After sleeping on immovable surfaces like this you’ll feel like you’re an unfortunate character from “The Princess and the Pea.”  Completely drained and unrefreshed. The reason for this is you’ve violated the natural curvature of your spine. The curves will have been forcibly “straightened” by a surface that is too flat and too hard. 

The isometric-static exercise program supports the natural and correct curves of the spine. At the same time, isometric exercises do not overload the spine or force it out of alignment, causing disc and joint degeneration. 

Advice

In order to maintain the correct curvature of the spine while doing isometric-static exercises, use special simple tools. For example, support your neck or lower back with your own hand or with a tightly rolled up towel. Similar tricks can be used to prevent back pain in your everyday routines. Support your back every chance you get: while sitting in your car during rush hour or while sitting at your desk at work.

These isometric-static-positional exercises will develop and help maintain the natural curves of your spine and will also strengthen the stabilizing discs of your vertebrae.

Summary

  • In order to ensure a healthy back and neck, the correct curvature of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine must be maintained.
  • Static-isometric exercise maintains the natural, correct curvature of the spine.
  • Isometric exercise is aimed at training the natural form of the spine and maintaining correct posture.  

Where does the Spine Start?

Do you know what part of your spine is the most important when it comes to maintaining correct posture? Is it your lumbar or low back? How about a bit lower in the sacral area? Maybe it’s the middle to upper portion, known as the thoracic region. Or perhaps the most important area of the spine is the little left-over portion of a tail that you sit on called your coccyx. In my books, “The Smart Spine System,” “Alive Posture, Stretching for the Spine” and “Isometric Gymnastics by Dr. Borschenko”  which you can find online at www.spinanorma.ru,  I focus on the way the cervical or upper portion of the spine works and I also explain some scientific experiments that have been done with animals, specifically with cats. 

Harmless studies have been conducted on these beautiful animals to confirm the idea that the most important factor concerning posture is the position of the head and the cervical spine. Think about how often you sit at your computer with your neck bent and your head tilted toward the screen. In this position there’s no way you can hold your back straight and maintain correct posture. The reason this is impossible isn’t simply a mechanical disconnect between your cervical vertebrae and the rest of your spine. Your nerves and reflexes also play a vital role in the mechanics of positioning. The position of one part of your spine causes changes to occur in the work and position of all its other parts. These changes take place automatically; we don’t know they occur and can’t usually control them.  

 The cervical vertebrae are the most movable of all the vertebrae. Within them are two vertebral arteries that feed your brain oxygen-rich blood. It doesn’t take much to cause these arteries to spasm. For example, you may lie in an uncomfortable position with your head turned to the side for several hours. Or you may twist your head or neck awkwardly. When these arteries spasm or get narrow, blood flow and oxygen to your brain is restricted and you may get a headache, noise in your ears or you may become dizzy. This condition is called “vertebrobasilar insufficiency.” In my publications, the cause and development of this condition is described.

In addition to the arteries inside the cervical vertebrae is also the spinal cord itself. Think about this: The head weighs about 5 pounds, which is 7% of the average person’s total body weight. The sedentary work of people who drive vehicles all day or sit for hours at desk jobs causes a continuous bending of the cervical spine. The weight of the head is constantly exerting a downward force. As a result, intervertebral discs and joints deteriorate, discs herniate and bone spurs develop. These cause pressure on the nerves and severe complications such as myelopathic syndrome (compression of the spinal cord) can result. Movement of the head and neck in an attempt to “work out” the cervical vertebrae can dramatically worsen the condition and cause an even faster progression of the disease. 

Advice

The most serious complication of cervical disc degeneration is cervical myelopathy which means the deterioration of the cervical spinal cord. Signs and symptoms of myelopathy include a progressive numbness and paralysis of the hands which leads to disability. People who are employed in jobs that involve sitting in an unnatural position with their heads lowered are at an increased risk for injuring their cervical vertebrae and spinal cord.

Traditional intense active head rotations place a heavy load on the cervical vertebrae and vertebral arteries. The desire to “work out” cervical discs and joints may result in substantial aggravation of pain or a progression of degenerative spinal lesions.

Isometric exercises provide an excellent alternative treatment for cervical degenerative conditions. You can use simple static-isometrics for the cervical spine anytime, anywhere: at work, on a trip or at home. These exercises will not cause increased pain. They can help to release muscle spasms, improve blood flow in the vertebral arteries and even improve brain function!

Tension headaches

It is common knowledge that women suffer from headaches more often than men. It is also known that most headaches are either caused by tension or are vascular in nature, meaning they are a result of a change in blood flow. Daily stress, a sedentary lifestyle and cyclic hormonal changes may cause muscles or blood vessels to spasm. Sometimes an over-expansion of blood vessels passing through the neck to the brain can occur.

 If you study the anatomy of the muscles found in the occipital or back part of the skull, there are not enough fingers on both of your hands to count the blood vessels there. There are more than a dozen of them! Each of these blood vessels can get so tense and so tight that you will howl with the pain it causes in your head and neck. Tension in your head and neck muscles instantly interrupts blood flow. That’s why any pathological condition of the neck and cervical spine always affects the head and is accompanied by headaches. Any patient who is suffering with chronic headaches should be checked for cervical spine conditions before anything else.

The static-isometric program includes exercises which specifically address spastic neck muscles and muscles of the head and posterior skull (occipital) regions. These exercises also strengthen the lymph and venous blood circulation from the head and neck. Not only is the isometric routine a treatment method for the cervical spine, it is also effective in the prevention of headaches, neuro-circulatory dystonia and chronic fatigue syndrome.  

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Summary

  • Degeneration of the cervical spine affects not only the neck, it also impacts the condition of the brain and the spinal cord
  • Headaches are often related to cervical spine diseases
  • Static-isometric exercises can effectively deal with muscle and vascular spasms in the area of the neck and head 

Practicing Techniques

In order for the isometric-static-positional exercises to be effective you only need to remember these three basic principles: 

  • Exercise regularly
  • Choose the right exercises
  • Perform the exercises correctly

Exercise regularly

When you start practicing isometrics on a regular basis your muscles and ligaments will get stronger. This process takes place after any physical exertion. You will start to feel changes in yourself such as a reduction in pain and an increase in mobility in the areas where you have been applying an isometric-static load. 

Usually the greatest effects of the exercise show up within 2-3 weeks. The muscles and ligaments need constant training so you should practice every day or at least every other day. Exercising less often is also beneficial, but the ligament-strengthening effect will not be as pronounced. If you focus on different parts of the spine, or on the spine and some joints, it may be a good idea to alternate exercises: one day do exercises for one part of the spine, the next day for another part or for your joints. For example, the first day of training work on exercises for the cervical spine. The second day, focus on the lumbar and the thoracic spine. Or on the first day concentrate on exercises for the spine and the second day you work on any joint. 

If you have chosen a large number of exercises and one day you suddenly don’t have the time or the desire to do your whole routine, try to not miss your entire workout. Do at least the very minimum number of exercises, even as little as 5-10% of your entire routine. Don’t ever miss an entire workout. By staying in rhythm you will tune your body and mind for regular workouts and maintain the results you have already achieved.

Remember:

The psychological effect of your workouts is no less important

 than the physical strengthening of your body!

Choose the right exercises

To help you choose the routine that is right for you the exercises are divided into three courses: Main, additional and advanced. The main course includes exercises which are mandatory. In other words, if you expect to get results from this technique, these exercises are required. In the next chapter you will find a list of exercises you should do on a regular basis, regardless of your mood or how much time is available. These are the Seven Golden Exercises:

  • "Hold the neck with hands"
  • "Shake the head like a pendulum"
  • "Resistance to bending the neck forward"
  • "Resistance to straightening the neck backward"
  • "Resistance to bending the neck sidewise"
  • "Resistance to turning the neck and the head"
  • "Hands leaning on the table"

You can add exercises from the additional and the advanced courses, taking into account your ability, your desire and how much time you have available. It’s advisable to move on to the additional and advanced courses only after you master the main course, which typically takes 2-3 weeks of regular training.  Don’t forget that each session should begin with the main course exercises.

Perform the exercises correctly

Isometric-static exercises do not require great physical fitness. Their effectiveness depends largely on how you perform them. This means that when you get in position to complete an exercise, you should be able to feel the tension in the targeted muscles. It’s particularly important to maintain tension in the abdominal muscles in the exercises that specify this. In many exercises tension is only needed in the abdominal muscles, while the arms or legs are actually moving. In order to do this, you need to learn how to consciously tense your abdominal muscles and hold this tension. The way to do this is described in detail in the descriptions of the exercises.

The number of repetitions for each exercise is individualized and varies from one to several times. The optimum number of repetitions for each exercise is two or three times. Tension retaining time is also individualized. Approximate time for completion of each is given in the description of each exercise. 

Never exercise “through the pain.” In other words, always STOP at the level of tension or at any point in an exercise when you feel pain. Later on you should perform that exercise only to that point. Gradually, in 1-2 weeks, when your ligaments and muscles are stronger, you can go past this point and execute the exercise to the next level of pain. IT IS FORBIDDEN TO ENDURE PAIN OR TO EXERCISE WHEN YOU ARE FEELING PAIN!

After a few weeks of training you will feel a certain level of success. You will be able to exercise will sufficient ease, without pain and in a good mood. Maintain this level by continuing  a regular schedule of workouts. 

The Main Course

These are the Seven Golden Exercises. They all involve the cervical spine. Remember, your cervical vertebrae have the greatest mobility of all the vertebrae.

1 HOLD THE NECK WITH HANDS

  • Starting position: sitting or standing.
  • Grasp your neck with both hands; thumbs in the front, palms on the sides and the rest of the fingers behind.
  • Initially, place your fingers right below the back of the head and the lower jaw. Your hands create a support, like a locking collar, which is often used to treat cervical spine problems.
  • Bend your head slowly forward, backward, right, left. Stop for 1-3 seconds in every extreme position
  • Move your hands down slightly to the middle part of the neck and repeat all the movements
  • Move your hands down again to the bottom of the neck with fingers lying on the trapezius muscles and repeat all the movements

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Advice

You can do this exercise: "Hold the neck with hands" in the office, sitting on a chair. It acts on the upper, middle and lower vertebrae and will effectively release the tension in your neck and eliminate pain at work.

2 HANDS LEANING ON THE TABLE

Starting position: standing with your back to the table, palms leaning on the edge of the table.


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  • In the isometric, static tension phase: stretch your whole body, your head and your spine upwards and slightly backwards, throwing your head back. Hold this position for 1-3 seconds
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  • Then, still in the tension phase slowly squat down with your hands leaning on the table as low as your shoulder and knee joints permit.
  • In the end, at the extreme point of a squat, bow your head and neck as much forward as possible, relaxing them.
  • After this exercise, the pain and stiffness in the neck, between the shoulder blades and in the upper chest will disappear completely
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3 SHAKE THE HEAD LIKE A PENDULUM

  • Starting position: sitting on a chair.
  • For this exercise find a medium-sized hardcover book and place it on the crown of the head.
  • Find a balance position slightly supporting the book with your hand. This position is ideal for the head and neck.

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Hold the book, your head and your neck in this position for 1-5 minutes. This will be enough time for your muscles to remember the correct neck and head position.  

The following three exercises for your cervical spine are completed in an isometric-static approach. To do this, your neck and head will resist an external load, which will be applied by your hands. Each exercise lasts approximately10-20 seconds. It is important to start applying manual pressure on the head smoothly, and at the same time to gently tense the muscles of the neck. You also need to reduce the load and stop the exercise gradually.

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Advice

The position of your head and neck affects your posture. A sedentary position, especially sitting at a computer, facilitates excessive inclination of the head and neck forward, forming a kyphotic (hunch-back) deformity of the cervical spine. To keep your posture in correct position, remember this rule:

Your ears should be in the same plane with your shoulder joints

All the exercises listed below help to strengthen the muscles that are important in maintaining the correct head and neck position for a healthy posture. To improve your posture while sitting, raise your chin slightly and straighten your neck.

4 RESISTANCE TO BENDING THE NECK FORWARD

  • Starting position: sitting on a chair or standing. 

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  • Place the palm of one hand on your forehead
  • Start to press the head with your hand, while resisting this pressure with your head
  • Hold this position of tension for 10-20 seconds without moving
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In the second part of the exercise, you stretch the muscles that you have just worked. To do this:

  • Throw your head back slightly. You can even facilitate it by slightly pressing your forehead with a hand, while the other hand is placed on the back of the neck for support. With the help of this movement you stretch the front neck muscles that have been statically tensed.
  • Stretch the muscles without excessive efforts and pain for 2-5 seconds.
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5 RESISTANCE TO STRAIGHTENING THE NECK  BACKWARDS

  • Starting position: sitting on a chair or standing
  • Place the palm of one hand on the back of the head
  • Start to press the head with a hand, while resisting this pressure with your head
  • Hold this position of tension for 10-20 seconds without moving

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In the second part of the exercise, you stretch the muscles that you have just worked. To do this: 

  • Slightly bend your head forward. You can even facilitate this by slightly pressing the back of the head with a hand. With the help of this movement you stretch the muscles of the back of your neck that have been statically tensed.
  • Stretch the muscles without excessive efforts and pain for 2-5 seconds.
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6 RESISTANCE TO BENDING THE NECK SIDEWISE

  • Starting position: sitting on a chair or standing
  • Place the palm of one hand on the side surface of the head

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  • Start to press the head with a hand, while resisting this pressure with your head
  • Hold this position of tension for 10-20 seconds without moving
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In the second part of the exercise, you stretch the muscles that you have just worked. To do this:

  • Slightly bend your head and neck sidewise. If you resisted bending the neck and the head to the right, then stretch the muscles by bending the neck to the left, and vice versa. You can even facilitate it by slightly pressing the side surface of the head with a hand, while the other hand is placed on the other side surface of the neck for support. With the help of this movement you stretch the side neck muscles that have been statically tensed.
  • Stretch the muscles without excessive efforts and pain for 2-5 seconds
  • Do the exercise on the opposite side and with the help of the other hand
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7 RESISTANCE TO TURNING THE NECK AND THE HEAD

  • Starting position: sitting on a chair or standing
  • Place the palm of one hand on a side surface of the lower jaw, on a side of the chin

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  • Start to press the jaw with a hand, while resisting this pressure with your head. At the same time teeth are tightly clenched
  • You resist turning the head and neck. Hold this position of tension for 10-20 seconds without moving
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In the second part of the exercise, you stretch the muscles that you have just worked. To do this:

  • Put your other hand on the side surface of the back of the neck and turn your head and neck with your hands, with your chin slightly raised. For example, if you resisted turning your head and neck right, then stretch the muscles by turning left, and vice versa. With the help of this movement you stretch the muscles of the back of your neck, the muscles of the sub-occipital region (the head and neck rotating muscles) that have been statically tensed.
  • Stretch the muscles without excessive efforts and pain for 2-5 seconds
  • Do the exercise in the opposite direction, changing the position of your hands.
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Advice

Tips to remember about the Golden Seven Exercises

You will find the exercise “Hands leaning on the table” in the book devoted to isometric gymnastics for the thoracic spine, but this exercise primarily influences the shoulder muscles and the lower part of the cervical spine. These areas are most tense in people who do sedentary work.

 

I recommend people use this exercise for the cervical spine to reduce the pain in their neck during the day while their sitting at a desk. The combination of static exertion and effective stretching of the shoulder girdle muscles substantively releases spasms and alleviates pain in the neck and between the shoulder blades. It also helps to eliminate the burning sensation in the so-called “cervical hump.”

  Not only do static-isometric exercises for the cervical spine superbly strengthen muscles and help build correct posture, they also easily eliminate tension headaches, which are common for a lot of people, especially those with sedentary occupations. Isometric, joint-sparing exercises eliminate muscle spasms in the neck and the occipital region and improve circulation to the brain. These exercises should become a part of your daily life. They will easily support you throughout the working day, whether you’re sitting at a desk, riding in a car or piloting a jet airplane. 

Additional Course: More exercises for the cervical spine

8 THE PALMS AT THE TEMPLES

  • Starting position: sitting on a chair
  • Place the palms of both your hands on the temporal region, fingers upwards
  • Take a breath in and simultaneously clench your teeth, tense your temporal muscles and simultaneously press the skin of your temples with your palms, and pull the skin of the temples upwards.
  • While breathing out, relax the tension in your muscles and teeth; ease your skin tension and the superficial muscle layer of tissue (the fascia temporalis).
  • Repeat all the movements, but let your hands slide up a little when breathing in the next time. This means that while breathing in, you stretch the skin and superficial layer of muscle (the fascia temporalis), gradually shifting your hands upwards.
  • Repeat the exercise 5-10 times

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9 THE FINGERS AT THE TEMPLES

  • Starting position: sitting on a chair
  • Spread your fingers of both your hands apart, like a comb, and place your hands on either side of your head, on your temples at the hairline

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  • Slide your fingers along the skin pressing the fingers towards the skull and simultaneously do slight forward and backward head leans
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  • Slide your fingers towards the top of your head while moving your head
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  • Repeat the exercise 3-5 times

Advice

These two exercises, “The palms at the temples” and “The fingers at the temples” are very effective for stretching the superficial layer of muscle tissue (the fascia temporalis). During this exercise, your temporal muscle is relaxing, the flow of blood is improving and tension headaches disappear.

10 SLIDING ALONG THE BACK OF THE NECK DOWNWARDS

  • Starting position: sitting on a chair or standing
  • Place both your palms on the back side of your neck at the back of the head

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  • Do slight head and neck leans simultaneously pressing the skin with your palms and slightly slide your palms along your neck downwards. This exercise gives you unmatched feeling of lightness and freedom of your neck
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  • Repeat the exercise 3-5 times

11 SLIDING ALONG THE CHEST DOWNWARDS

  • Starting position: sitting on a chair or standing
  • Place your palms on the front side of your chest beneath the collarbones

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  • Breathe in deeply and slowly then make a pause and breathe out. While breathing out press your chest with your palms and slide downwards slowly
  • Shift your palms slightly each time you breathe out, and leave your palms on the same place while breathing in. If you are a woman shift your palms till you reach the top of your breasts. This exercise gives a feeling of lightness in the chest.
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12 SLIDING ALONG THE SIDE OF THE NECK DOWNWARDS

  • Starting position: sitting on a chair or standing
  • Place both your palms on the back of the head
  • Press your head with the hands to make the back and side neck muscles statically-isometrically tense

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  • Afterwards you will stretch your muscles: place your right palm on the right side of your neck on the trapezius muscle, meanwhile with your fingers reach out to the protruding seventh cervical vertebra. This is also called the “cervical hump” or the “widow’s hump”
  • Slide your fingers and your palm along the side of your neck from the back of your spine slowly forward. To facilitate sliding you can do slight frontward and backward leans with your head and neck.
  • Stretch the left side neck muscles with your left hand
  • Repeat the exercise 1-3 times 
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Advice

The exercise, “Sliding along the side of the neck downwards” affects the muscles that are attached to the spinous process of the lower cervical vertebrae (the seventh neck vertebra). Most sedentary workers experience pain in this area due to spasms of several muscles that are attached to this spot on the vertebrae. This exercise is excellent to release the pain in the “cervical hump” or “widow’s hump” and it restores a feeling of lightness to your neck after a hard day at work.

The exercises “Sliding along the back of the neck downwards,”  “Sliding along the chest downwards” and “Sliding along the side of the neck downwards” help to normalize blood flow in the cervical spine and improve the venous return of blood from the skull and brain.

Cervical spine extension

We all have different body builds. As a rule, stocky men have a short neck and the opposite is also true: a lean and tall man carries his head on a long neck. Expressions like “swan neck” or “no neck” accurately reflect the anatomical features of the cervical spine. It connects the head, which is the “central computer” to the body. Therefore, problems of the head are often caused by the cervical spine. These vertebrae are highly mobile and the first two cervical vertebrae have separate names: the atlas and chital. Only through the cervical spine runs a thick artery: the vertebral artery which leads to the brain. This vessel is located on the side surfaces of the vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs.

This close proximity has its consequences: any problem in a vertebra or disc, such as a fracture, inflammation or herniation, can cause a reaction of the vertebral artery in the form a spasm. Often one hears a story about dizziness or tinnitus (ringing in the ears) after a sudden turn of the head or after a sharp or prolonged leaning of the head backwards (syndrome of the Sistine Chapel or Clothesline Syndrome). This is just a manifestation of a spasm of the vertebral artery and the development of the impaired blood flow in these vessels.

The mobility of the cervical vertebrae is provided by intervertebral discs and joints, which change in thickness depending on the time of day: in the morning the height and length of our neck is bigger than in the evening.

Gravity has an influence as well. Your head is heavy!  It weighs about 5 pounds. The cartilage and ligaments are constantly aging and deteriorating and the height of the discs is also reducing. Therefore, it is logical to expect a positive effect from measures like spinal extension. This can be achieved by a variety of devices like loops, loads and blocks. But you should know these "devices" for extension often have the opposite effect. They cause an increase in pain because they cause follow-up damage to the discs and joints.   

When extension of the spine is performed by these devices, it is extremely difficult to control. Especially in the case of elderly patients whose ligaments and discs lose their flexibility and elasticity. They sometimes are even rigid and completely inflexible. To perform neck extensions efficiently and safely, you should do them yourself, strictly controlling the degree of extension and weighting. Even small extensions of one or two millimeters can be enough to change the pressure in the intervertebral discs and joints, and can normalize vascular tone. As a result of the extension headaches vanish, neck pains regress, the venous outflow from the skull increases and thinking and concentration improve. Also, during the self-extension of the neck you have the ability to perform micro-motions with your head and neck, greatly enhancing the effect of the exercise. 

To perform cervical spine self-extension you should place both thumbs under your chin, and put the rest of the fingers and palms around your head on the sides and the back of your head. In this position, you pull out your head and neck. It is important to remember that the extension direction should coincide with the direction of the spine common axis.

You can additionally perform small movements of the head and neck along with the neck extension. Slightly bend and unbend your head forwards and backwards while performing extension. Compare your head and neck with a tight cork in a bottle, which you wobble to take out. Micro-motions of the neck allow for a deeper affect on the neck ligaments and muscles.

Neck self-extension can be performed not only vertically but horizontally as well. To do this, support your neck by putting a small rolled towel under it. Extension in a horizontal position is gentler and is the safest.

Summary

  • The height, elasticity and flexibility of the intervertebral discs and joints reduce as people get older and age.
  • The usage of the external devices, apparatuses or other people’s assistance for the extension of the cervical spine can lead to increasing pain.
  • Static-isometric exercises are the safest method for self-extension of the cervical spine, which decreases pain and relieves muscle and vascular spasms.

13 EXTEND THE NECK YOURSELF

  • Starting position: lying on your back, with a small roll of a towel under the small of the back
  • Place your thumbs under your chin, and put the palms and fingers on your head and neck.
  • Gently pull the head and neck along the spine axis, simultaneously making very small movements with your head like nodding back and forth or light turns from side to side.

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  • Do each exercise for 10-20 seconds. After a pause, you can repeat the exercise 2-3 times

a EXTEND THE NECK YOURSELF, OFFICE VARIANT

This is exactly the same as the previous exercise, but in a sitting position. An office worker sitting at a desk or a driver behind the wheel can significantly alleviate the condition of their cervical spine only by self-extension.


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14 EXTEND THE NECK BY THE LOWER JAW

  • Starting position: sitting or standing.
  • It is necessary to grasp the lower jaw by the teeth.
  • To do this, open your mouth and put the fingers of both hands on the lower teeth, then press the jaw with your thumbs from below. You will move your head and neck by the lower jaw.
  • Perform a small pulling movement forwards and unbend the head and neck
  • Hold this position for 3-5 seconds
  • Next, bend the head and neck by the lower jaw
  • Hold this ultimate position for 3-5 seconds
  • Repeat this movement 10-12 times

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Advice

A little change in the height of the intervertebral discs and joints takes place when you do self-extension of the cervical spine. However such a microscopic motion is enough to improve the condition. Therefore, do not try to stretch the spine as much as possible. Slight extension will provide a noticeable effect. It can be especially effective for sharp pains in the neck, or to release an acute muscle spasm.

Advanced Course: Additional Exercises for the Cervical Spine

These next two exercises are performed in an “on-all-fours” position

15 ON ALL FOURS, HEAD UP

  • Starting position: standing on all fours

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  • In the static phase, lift your head up, facing upwards
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  • Hold this position for 15-30 seconds
  • Then extend the muscles of the back of the neck. To do this, lean your head down freely and slowly for 15-30 seconds
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  • Do this exercise 1-3 times

16 ON ALL FOURS, HEAD SIDEWISE

  • Starting position: standing on all fours

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  • In the static phase, lift your head up and turn to one side, eyes looking up and away.
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  • Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
  • Then execute extension of the back and side neck muscles and the muscles of the occipital region. To do this, lean your head down freely and slowly for 15-30 seconds.
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  • Do this exercise 1-3 times. 

The next two exercises are performed while lying on your back.      

 17 BENDING THE NECK WITH HANDS

  • Starting position: lying on your back
  • Place both hands under your neck to support it.

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  • Slowly bend your head and neck forward and then slowly return to the starting position.
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  • Repeat the exercise 10 times

18 TURNING THE NECK WITH HANDS

  • Starting position: lying on your back
  • Place both hands under your neck to support it.

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  • Slowly bend your head and neck forward while turning the head to one side and then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Perform the movement with the opposite direction turn
  • Repeat the exercise 10 times. Hold the neck with your hands during the movement.
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Advice

There is a belief that vigorous bending and rotation of the head is the best exercise for the neck. However, such sharp dynamic exercises can place a significant overload on a damaged or aged spine. Therefore, vigorous exercises can harm and worsen pain instead of improving the condition. The exercises “Bend the neck with hands” and “Turn the neck with hands” allow you to control the neck movement while supporting the cervical vertebrae with your hands, thereby preventing pain and making the exercises especially pleasant, safe and effective.

19 HANDS UNDER THE HEAD, HANDS BACKWARDS

  • Starting position: lying on your back
  • In order to support your waist, place a small rolled towel under it. It is advisable to use the couch or to lie on the edge of the bed, so that the hands can be freely thrown back.

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  • Place hands under your neck at the back of your head. 
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  •  In the first phase of the exercise, bend your head and neck forward and statically hold this position for 15-30 seconds. To do this, you can help your neck and head with your hands
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In the second phase of the exercise you will stretch the front muscles of the neck. To do this:

  • Bend your head and neck downwards to the level of the couch or even lower. Your head may be slightly hanging over the edge of the couch. Your arms are stretched up and backwards and set apart.
  • Hold this extension for 15-30 seconds as well.
  • Repeat the exercise 1-3 times

            


 Physical exercises can substitute for a lot of medicines,

but not a single medicine can substitute for physical exercises

                                                                                                        ~Alfred de Musset

Dear Friends! 

I am sure that after reading this book isometric-static exercise has become your assistant and companion. By now you understand that physical exercise can be therapeutic medicine, curing illness. You have learned to apply these special routines for your unique benefit and have seen excellent results. The most important thing for you to do now is to put your knowledge into practice. Your workouts should be done on regular schedule and you should set aside a special time to do them. To achieve results, exercise consistently.

There is no need to do all the exercises explained in this book. Keep in mind the principles you have learned and create your own personal workout plan taking your individual needs, abilities, and time availability into account.

A lot of diseases can be cured or your health improved with the help of isometric exercise classes, but what is more important is disease prevention. You can become a coach of isometric-static-sparing exercises for your loved ones. I will be very happy and deeply satisfied if even one of the exercises you’ve learned from this book is beneficial. 

I wish you health, confidence and new achievements!

Your doctor, Igor  Borschenko