While The Great Forward Head Posture Debate might still be unsettled, there’s nothing uncertain about the fact that neck and back posture are important for prolonged sitting. In gaming, we spend a lot of time focused on how our hands and wrists are holding up–but neck muscle endurance and stability is key when it comes to preventing headaches and maintaining focus.
1HP has teamed up with Iron Neck to take you through everything you need to know about how your neck keeps your head on straight, even when you’re tilting.
Most of the muscles that we’re interested in are located on the posterior, or back part, of the neck and shoulders. That’s not surprising, given that if you want to extend your neck, or to keep it extended, you need muscles in the back to contract and shorten as they pull on the head. However, when you’re sitting in a slouched position with your head pushed forward, those muscles don’t just functionally shorten by contracting only when you need them to, they can also structurally shorten. When that happens, it puts strain on the spine and can cause pain.
So we also care about some of the neck muscles that are located anteriorly, or on the front of the neck, as well. Specifically, we care about a group of muscles called the “deep cervical flexors”: the rectus capitis lateralis and anterior, and the longus capitis and colli.
You can think of these muscles as being like your core, except for your cervical spine rather than your lumbar spine. Their job is to fire in coordination with the extensor muscles–those muscles on the back of your neck and shoulders–to keep the neck neutral and upright, rather than being extended too much.
All of these muscles need to work in complement to each other. When one group of muscles is significantly stronger than the antagonist muscles, or the ones that pull in the opposite direction, you end up with postural imbalances and, potentially, with pain–particularly headaches. When headaches are caused by tightness in the cervical muscles, we call them cervicogenic headaches. Research shows that deep neck flexor training and craniocervical flexion exercises can help reduce pain and improve neutral cervical position.
As gamers, we don’t need a large amount of raw muscle strength. What we do need is muscular endurance, or the ability to maintain and repeat contractions over time. So when it comes to working on these muscles, we don’t need large amounts of power or resistance, we need a consistent force and the ability to resist it in multiple directions. That way, we can work on both anterior and posterior muscles, as well as other small stabilizing muscles that work to control rotation.
So where does Iron Neck come in? Iron Neck is a piece of exercise equipment that makes it easy to work on the endurance of a number of different neck muscles, in a variety of positions and motions. Is it the only way to improve neck stability? No. But is it a pretty convenient way to do so? Yes.
We’ve talked about why your neck muscles matter and how the Iron Neck can play a role in improving them. If you want to learn more about pain science and how pain affects performance, keep an eye out for our next piece!