rachis-cervical The term cervicalgia refers to all the different types of conditions in the cervical region i.e. the neck. The cervical spinal column consists of seven cervical vertebrae

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Jocelyn-William LOUBRIAT


The term cervicalgia refers to all the different types of conditions in the cervical region i.e. the neck. The cervical spinal column consists of seven cervical vertebrae. Its great mobility enables us to position the eye according to a movement. This function is completed by a great number of small and big muscles, whose role it is to assure the important motility of this region (ability to make a lot of different movements), and also the stability of the neck and the head.


Side view of the cervical spine

Causes of cervical pain include tense muscles or muscle cramps in this complex and constantly used musculature, blockage in intervertebral joints, and cervical arthrosis (cervicarthrosis), a condition of chronic wear.
Joint contracture or overuse can also lead to conflicts with nerves, that are numerous in this region (Arnold’s neuralgia which radiates “as a helmet” to the head, cervicobrachial neuralgia which radiates to the upper limb).

Posterior view of the skull and the first cervicals

from Michel Dufour, Anatomy of the locomotive apparatus

Mechanism of the lesion

In climbing, you generally suffer from the neck when belaying.
The climber, who becomes a belayer, must raise the head to look towards his partner. He thus places his spinal column in a position of hyperextension and uses only this cervical mobility. It is due to this practice, that through anterior muscle tension, the rest of the column tends to stay locked in flexion (shoulders roll up, dorsal hyperkyphosis…).


Other factors, like having suffered from shock at a car accident (e.g. the whiplash syndrome) or falling from a high bloc may favour cervicalgias.
Cervical arthrosis is a phenomenon that develops over time. The combination of muscular contractures (increasing the strain on the joints) and repeated movements in hyper extended cervicals favours its emergence, sometimes even in very young people.


It is possible to act on two levels: reduce hyperextension and reduce the contractures of the cervical musculature.
Working on the position and anterior tension of the trunk (stretching of the {avrpopup type="lightbox" id="lecteur_09"}abdominals{/avrpopup}, {avrpopup type="lightbox" id="lecteur_07"}minor and major pectoralis{/avrpopup}, {avrpopup type="lightbox" id="lecteur_21"}psoas{/avrpopup}…) you “kill two birds with one stone”: you place the base of your cervical column in a position of less flexion and this diminishes the lordotic curve (extension), and you reduce the the muscle tension that spreads from the trunk to the neck,.

Corrected position, by working the opening of the thorax

CU© glasses (prism glasses) avoid hyperextension. They are far from being a gadget, and given the comfort they offer, how easy it is to use them and the real mechanical relief they offer the cervical column, their use should be more common.

Position with the wearing of the CU glasses. (photo of the glasses : Pofroad)

[You can buy them on, a Web site in English or German you can fully trust.] You can also have a look at the test carried out by our friends of Pofroad at

You may also reduce the muscle contractures of the neck by stretching the posterior, anterior and lateral muscles of the neck and by working actively on the mobilization of the different levels of the cervical column.

Stretching of the neck muscles

Specific mobilization exercises for the neck

For prevention, it is necessary to remember not to crack the neck too often. Cracking maintains hypermobility of the cervical joints causing hyper solicitation and thus favours premature wearing.


In case of isolated pain while belaying, try to modify your position and make the stretching exercises mentioned above to relieve the pain.
If the pain becomes more regular, ask your doctor to prescribe reeducation sessions to harmonize your posture. The choice of the practitioner is very important because it is not only a question of massaging your neck or “putting the vertebra back in place” to alleviate your pain, but more importantly of making you work on your posture as to reduce the long term strain on the cervices. Classical symptomatic reeducation therapy will not be efficient, cracking osteopathy will not necessarily have long term effects if it is practised alone, so you should favour postural reeducation therapy.