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What are the Deep Core Muscles of the Neck? How to Fix Neck Pain with Physical Therapy... (Part 1)

The neck has 7 vertebrae and there are multiple deep “core” muscles of the neck. They play a crucial role in stabilizing and supporting this region. Understanding these deep core muscles and how to strengthen them is essential for getting rid of pain and overall neck health and function.

longus coli
longus coli

The Anatomy of Deep Core Muscles in the Neck

The deep core muscles of the neck each have a specific function:

  1. Longus Colli and Longus Capitis: These muscles run along the front of the neck. Longus colli extends from the ribcage to the middle neck while longus capitis attaches to the base of the skull. Together, they flex the neck and stabilize the cervical spine.  You can have a weakness of a small part of this large muscle.

  2. Multifidus: These muscles run along the back of the neck connecting each vertebra. They extend the neck and contribute to spinal stability and segmental control.  You can have a weakness at one vertebra and the rest of the muscle is strong.


The Importance of Deep Core Muscles

  1. Stability and Posture: Deep core muscles provide crucial stability to the neck, improving proper posture and alignment. They work in concert with superficial muscles to maintain the natural curvature of the cervical spine, reducing the risk of strain and injury.

  2. Movement Control: While superficial muscles are responsible for gross movements of the neck, deep core muscles play a key role in controlling subtle movements and stabilizing individual vertebrae during motion. This ensures smooth and coordinated movement while minimizing excessive stress on the spine.  Lack of deep stabilizers created irritation to the structures of the vertebrae such as joints, muscles, nerves or the disc.

  3. Pain Prevention and Rehabilitation: Dysfunction or weakness in deep core muscles can contribute to neck pain and dysfunction. Strengthening these muscles through targeted exercises is often an integral component of neck rehabilitation programs, helping alleviate pain and restore function.

In Part 2 we will discuss some exercises to target the deep core muscles of the neck and how physical therapy can help with chronic or acute neck pain.

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