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Cervical Activities Booklet

The Six Movements of the Neck

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The human neck makes essentially six movements. All movements of the neck are combinations and varying percentages of these six movements. These gently performed movements are:

1) flexion—the movement in which the chin is lowered down toward the chest (below)

neck flexion

2) extension—the neck is extended, as in looking upward toward
the ceiling

neck extension

3 and 4) lateral rotation to the left and to the right—these are simply direct lateral rotation to either side (below)

lateral rotation

5 and 6) lateral flexion may be best described as trying to place the ear upon the shoulder through a sideways movement of the neck, directing the ear toward the shoulder tip on both sides (below)

lateral flexion

These six movements may be slowly performed occasionally to stretch the neck ligaments if they tend to feel tight. The movements can be performed at any time by patients who have not had fusions. If you have had a fusion, your surgeon will discuss with you when you can start them.

It is important that the patient himself or herself initiate these movements. Someone else should not grasp the patient’s head and try to manipulate the neck in the above directions.

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