Cervical Stabilization and Mobilization

April 10, 2012  Author: Lori Saige, RPT

Would you believe me if I told you that by doing three simple exercises for less than five minutes a day you would have a healthier body with a more alert mind, fewer headaches, and greater flexibility? Well, it’s true. Not only have I seen these exercises (what we physical therapists call “cervical stabilization and mobilization”) help resolve my patients’ neck issues, but they also helped me tremendously in my recovery from being rear-ended by a distracted college student who was chatting away on her cell phone and failed to notice that the traffic light had changed.

These exercises are designed to align, mobilize, and stabilize the first three cervical vertebrae (C1, C2, and C3). The exercises improve the alignment of the joint surfaces and help to balance the relationships between the muscles that control the movement and stability of these three key vertebrae.

Before we go any further, I should explain a little bit about what each of these vertebrae do and how they not only control how your head moves, but to a significant extent, how the rest of your spine (and therefore your entire body) does too.

C1 (Atlas)
Named for the Titan of Greek mythology whose punishment for warring against the gods was to support the weight of the heavens (which is often depicted as a globe) for eternity. The globe of the head rests literally right on top this first cervical vertebra (C1), allowing the fine movements of the head on top of the neck. The nerve roots (sensory nerves) emerging from C1 innervate the skin around and above the ear. If C1 is misaligned, you will probably notice pain at the base of your skull and underneath the jaw and the inability to move your head normally. In addition to pain at the base of your skull, the symptoms of a C1 misalignment can include wicked headaches, migraines, felling “fuzzy headed,” dizziness, TMJ pain, even vertigo.

C2 (Axis)
The English word “axis” comes from the Latin word of the same spelling, meaning axel or pivot. The most distinctive feature of the Axis (C2) is its “odontoid process” (a tooth-like protrusion often called the “dens”) that forms a pivot upon which the Atlas (C1) rotates. In general, C2 directs cervical mobility. The nerve roots (sensory nerves) emerging from C2 innervate the skin of the back of the skull. If the Axis is misaligned, my patients frequently report pain at the base of the skull that extends up the back of the head as well as referred pain behind the eyes and in the temples. As with C1 misalignment, C2 misalignment makes it difficult to turn your head left or right.

C1 & C2 Innervation Issues
The upper cervical spine works as a functional unit. So it is difficult, even for experienced therapists and doctors, to discern whether C1 and C2 are out of alignment because the symptoms are so similar. For example, when C1 is out of alignment, it is likely to cause C2 nerve impingement symptoms (pain that start at the base of the skull and extend over the top of the head and lodges behind the eyes and/or in the temples). I see a lot more C1 misalignment. That’s not to say that C2 misalignment symptoms are uncommon, but C1 issues are more prevalent.

C3 (no cool Greek or Latin name)
The third cervical vertebra (third one down from the base of the skull) is similar in structure to the next three vertebrae: C4, C5, and C6. C3 is on the same plane with the mandible (lower jaw) and the hyoid bone (a floating bone that sits above the Adam’s Apple). If you moved your finger back along your jaw line, you would be at the C3 level. The motor nerve root (which controls muscle movement) emerging from C3 innervates the muscles of the face and neck. If this vertebra is misaligned, you may notice facial pain, tingling, or muscle spasms. C3, C4, and C5 also innervate the diaphragm, which is why people who have traumatic upper spinal cord injuries often have trouble breathing.

The relationship between these first three vertebrae is interrelated, requiring the coordinated movement of dozens of muscles, tendons, and ligaments—all of which are about the size and thickness of your little finger. If any of these vertebrae are misaligned or have their normal movement restricted, it often sets off a chain reaction of pain and discomfort that can be difficult to clear.

If left uncorrected, this sort of problem can set up a positive feedback loop that basically shuts down the normal movement and mobility that are critical to daily life such as, nodding your head “yes,” shaking your head “no,” turning your head to parallel park your car, or looking left and right before you cross the street.

Fortunately, the exercises listed below harness the intrinsic intelligence of your central nervous system, which allows you to move your head in all directions.

Once a cervical joint is stabilized and mobilized, these exercises allow the neck to stay in spinal neutral, which is the optimal state of being—your ideal blueprint.

A Word Before You Start
Before you begin the exercises listed below, it’s important that you understand one simple, yet subtle, concept. All three exercises involve an isometric contraction between the palm of your hand and the side of your head. You will receive the most benefit if you focus on resisting the force of your hand against the side of your head—instead of pushing your head into the palm of your hand. Although this difference might sound trivial, it’s not. Cervical stabilization and mobilization occur when your neck actively resists your hand pressing against the side of your head.

Although it might feel like you are doing more “work” when you press your head into your hand, that type isometric contraction recruits many of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones of your neck and chest, which prevent these exercises from working their magic on the alignment of the first three cervical vertebrae.

So relax and allow your head the resist the pressure of your hands.

Exercise 1: Balancing Atlas with Rotation 


Position: Lie on your back with your head in a neutral position (chin in, nose pointing straight up at the ceiling). Do not put a pillow under your head unless you cannot rest your head comfortably without one. Place the heels of each hand on your temples in the natural indentation just above your cheekbones.

Exercise: With your chin tucked in as far as you can, use the muscles at the base of your skull to resist your head being turned to the left by your right hand. Focus on the muscles at the base of your skull, and avoid using the muscles of your entire neck. Recruiting these other neck muscles defeats the mobilization and stabilization of your Atlas (C1). Admittedly, this is a fine line that might take you a few times of figure out.

Resist the force of your hand while keeping your head straight with your nose pointing straight at the ceiling. The force of your hand is stronger than your upper cervical muscles, so gradually increase the force of your hand until it is equal what the muscles at the base of your skull can resist. Applying this type of balanced force helps prevent your head from moving out of the mid-line of your body.

You are attempting to keep your head in a neutral position as you push against it with your right hand. Hold for four seconds, and then switch hands and repeat the exercise using your left hand. Repeat this exercise four times on both sides (4 counts x 4 sets).

Tip: Look in the direction of the hand that is attempting to rotate your head. If you are resisting the force of your right hand, look to your right. Using your eyes brings in a visual component to this isometric exercise, which stimulates your brain and incorporates an element of balance.

Exercise 2: Balancing Atlas-Axis with Side Bend

Position: Lie on your back with your head in a neutral position (chin in, nose pointing straight up at the ceiling). Do not put a pillow under your head unless you cannot rest your head comfortably without one. Place the heels of your hands on the tops of your ears or just slightly above your ears.

Exercise: With your chin tucked in as far as you can, press your right palm against the right side of your head as if it were attempt to block your right ear from moving to where your chin is now. Again, it’s your hand that is pressing against your head, not the other way around. The force of your hand should be equal to what the muscles at the base of your skull can oppose. This equal resistance prevents your head from moving out of the mid-line of your body. Repeat on the left side, using your left hand to keep your neck completely still. Repeat this exercise four times on both sides (4 counts x 4 sets).

Tip: The trick here is to use the pressure of your hand to prevent your neck from side bending at/near the base of your skull. The movement your hand is trying to prevent is a small bird-like tilting of your head at top of the neck. If you recruit all the muscles of the neck, you take away this exercise’s ability to mobilize the Atlas-Axis joint.

Exercise 3: Correcting C2’s Functional Relationship

Position: As with the Atlas-Axis Mobilization exercise you just completed, lie on your back with your head in a neutral position (chin in, nose pointing straight up at the ceiling). Do not put a pillow under your head unless you cannot rest your head comfortably without one. Start with the heels of your hands on the tops of your ears or just slightly above them.

Exercise: With your chin tucked in as far as you can, press your right palm against the right side of your head as if it were attempt to block your right ear from moving to where your chin is now. Your right hand prevents your head from moving. Again, it’s your hand that is pressing against your head, not the other way around. The force of your hand should be equal to what the muscles at the base of your skull can oppose. Turn your eyes to the right as well.

This time, instead of switching to your left hand after you have completed four counts, side bend your head slightly to the right so your ear moves slightly in the direction of your chin —as if you were taking up the slack that the previous set of this exercise created. All the side-bending movement should occur right at the base of your skull—not throughout your entire neck. Admittedly, this kind of selective motion is a little tricky at first, and it takes a few sessions to feel the difference between using your whole neck and using just the muscles at the base of the skull. When done correctly; however, this exercise produces powerful results.

Repeat this exercise four times, doing each set for four full counts, and then side bending your head slightly further towards your chin. Do this a total of four times, and then repeat on the other side.

Tip: As with the previous exercise, the trick here is to resist side bending your head from the base of your skull, while keeping the rest of your neck as steady as possible. Again, The movement you are trying to prevent is a small bird-like tilting of your head at top of the neck.

Congratulations! You’ve just completed the entire cervical stabilization and mobilization workout. The most startling benefit of doing these three exercises is the flexibility, mobility, and stability they create and maintain throughout your body, including your lower back.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

About The Author: Lori Saige, RPT

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

About the author:  To change this standard text, you have to enter some information about your self in the Dashboard -> Users -> Your Profile box.

About the author:


{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar RachelNo Gravatar July 9, 2012 at 12:31 am

Thank you very much for posting these upper neck exercises. I found your website by googling “how to stabilize your c1 and c2.” I wish (because I’m a visual learner,) that you provided videos, but I had my husband double check me to ensure I did them exactly as instructed.

If I do them daily, how long until I notice results????


avatar adminNo Gravatar July 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Dear Rachel,

Obviously, if you’re having a lot of pain and/or pain radiating down your arms, you need to see a doctor because any kind of exercise could make that condition worse.

I have done these exercises faithfully as preventative care for years. When I first started, it took a couple of days before I began noticing a difference. In my experience, the trick is push your hands against your head for half a second before you resist the pressure with your upper cervical muscles. If you try pushing your head into your hands, you end up recruiting all the muscles of your neck and your trapezius muscles, which defeats the upper cervical stabilization and mobilization action.

Go easy and work from your zone of comfort. I recommend starting with a 50-75% effort to make sure you have the bio-mechanics down. You will “feel it” when you are doing it right because the rest of your neck relaxes slightly while the area just underneath the skull is still contracting.

It definitely helps to have someone watch you the first couple of times so you’re not cheating.

I started doing these exercises years ago to prevent bouts of “cervical vertigo,” which left me foggy headed and feeling woozy. When they got bad, the room actually started to spin. After I discovered these exercises, it only took a couple of days before I felt the symptoms go away completely.

Try them first thing in the morning and before you go to bed. I also do them before and after I work out.

Again, if you have significant pain or pain radiating down your arms, please see a doctor or a physical therapist.

Also, I completely agree with you about a video to go with this article. We’ll work on that.

Thank you for your comment.

Mark B. Saunders


avatar ShariNo Gravatar August 11, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Do you say anything in your introduction to advise people to consult with Dr. if you have a condition. I do not see it, only in your comments to Rachel. This concerns me, as I have a condition.


avatar JanusNo Gravatar July 13, 2012 at 12:01 am

Is it possible to do these standing up. Can you let me know how to do ones either sitting or standing? thank you so much for your help


avatar adminNo Gravatar September 27, 2012 at 9:34 pm


My understanding is that by sitting up your activate the very muscles, tendons, and ligaments that you are attempting to re-align by doing these exercises. If lying on the floor is an issue, I recommend that you try doing the exercises on a bed–the firmer the mattress the better.

Best of luck to you,

Mark B. Saunders


avatar LisaNo Gravatar August 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

For the past two months, I have been suffering from migraines, dizziness, vertigo, jaw pain, tingling on the left side (face, arm, leg) and feeling like passing out. Been to so many doctors, tests all normal.

I went to a physical therapist, and said that my C1 on the right side was completely out of place, he worked on it, yesterday felt so good. Today, after treatment (dizzy and little headache).
He said that yesterday the C1 moved a little, but today no progress… He told me to try the excercises you suggested.
I was wondering if you knew of anything that would help the C1 move back into place?


avatar adminNo Gravatar September 3, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Hello, I apologize for the delay in my reply. I hope you have made big strides with your C1-C2 situation. My personal experience with my own C1 situation responds well to those exercises. I’ve also noticed that most yoga postures help as well. (I would avoid shoulder stands, head stands, and “the plow” pose.) A good chiropractor is invaluable as well. In my situation, my C1 condition is linked to an L5-S1 disc injury. When I strengthen my lower back and lower abdominals, both my back and neck feel better.

I hope this information is helpful.

Be well,

Mark Bartlett Saunders


avatar DonnaNo Gravatar June 26, 2013 at 6:40 pm


I was reading your comment on having C1 issues after having L5-S1 surgery. I had the same surgery and was wondering if it is at related to my cervical problems. I have some stenosis and degeneration (some bulging discs, but not in need of surgery) in my cervical area, but it seems like after the operation I developed jaw/face pain. I have been check for TMJ, went to a Ear, Nose an Throat Specialist and a neurologist ruling out any brain issues….I know there is something call Atypical face pain, but don’t know if it’s that or an alignment/degeneration problem…Any other suggestions? Donna


avatar adminNo Gravatar June 27, 2013 at 3:31 am


I’m sorry you’ve been having so many post-surgical problems. Sounds very painful. Obviously, the key to your recovery is to regain as much normal function in your upper cervical spine as possible. The question is “how?” I cannot speak to your healing crisis because I’ve never been in your shoes; however, I have had a few such events in my own life.

What I have done is act like I was rebuilding my body and my life. I have frequently spent 5 days on the master cleanse fast (more to reset my constitution than anything), followed by a series of Rolfing appointments to realign my body. A vegan diet and lots of meditation and yoga for clarity. Also, I believe in putting the question out to the universe “What is it going to take to heal from this?”

I realize that this protocol sounds rather airy-fairy, but I find that making conscious changes like these opens the door to new thinking, new opportunities, and new healing modalities to come into your life. Obviously, with your condition, you have to be very careful with bodywork of any kind because you don’t want to upset/undo the positive effects of your surgery. You also have to be careful in yoga as well. Any posture where you put weight or pressure on your head is out of the question. Even twisting postures that encourage you to turn your head may be too much. Again, I don’t know what it’s like to walk around in your body.

Bottom line: Listen. Listen to your body and your intuition. Follow them. I have no idea where they will lead you, but I trust that they know far more than I.

Best of success,



avatar HollyNo Gravatar April 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Hi Donna
Saw your post that you left about having jaw/face pain. I was wondering if you found anything that has worked. I had gum pain on the left side and to a chiropractor that adjusted my c-1 and it seemed to cure it, but I have to keep going back from time to time and I also have sensitive gums on the right side in the back area when I chew. I also have degenetive and herniated disk in neck and lower back. So your comments about having degeneration in your spine has me wondering if that could be the root cause to begin with. If you could let me know my e-mail is polhemus5@comcast.net


avatar S.A.RavishankarNo Gravatar November 24, 2012 at 7:38 am

Dear Mr Mark, Thanks a lot for posting this,
I have a few doubts
1. In exercise 1, you have mentioned place right hand on temple and resist head movement turning left. Please elaborate , I could not understand.
2. exercise 2 is ok.
3. what is the difference between 2 & 3 ?


avatar adminNo Gravatar November 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Dear S.A.

I understand your questions (and hopefully your concerns). If my answers do not adequately answer your questions, please reply and let me know the exact nature of your confusion.

Here are my answers:

1. In all three exercises, you are attempting to do the impossible, which is to move your ear so that it could touch your chin, and it cannot unless you have a broken jaw. Think of your ear “chasing” your chin while your hand attempts to block this motion. In all three exercises, you want to resist the pressure of your hand, instead of trying to move your hand with your head.

2. The difference between the 2nd and 3rd exercise is that in the 3rd exercise you slide your ear a little bit closer to your shoulder (or “where your chin was”) after each isometric contraction. In the 3rd exercise, each time you do an isometric contraction, your head slides a little closer towards you shoulder each time, and you begin the next “repetition” of the exercise from the place where you left off from the previous one. In the 2nd exercise, you start back at the beginning with your head in a “spinal neutral” position. Think of the 3rd exercise as a more advanced version of the 2nd one. While doing the 3rd exercise, I often feel my neck “pop” like it does when I visit the chiropractor–a bit of an added benefit.

I hope this explanation answers your questions.

Be well,

Mark B. Saunders


avatar AdamNo Gravatar December 10, 2012 at 1:53 am

Sorry, Mark.

I’m really confused with the motion in these exercises. It seems like all three should have no motion, but the diagrams suggest differently. Are there videos for these?



avatar adminNo Gravatar December 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Hi Adam,

I’m sorry for the confusion. We will have videos next month. In the meantime, I will address your mention of motion. There is motion in all three exercises; however, the motion is restricted to the top of the cervical spine. The goal of all three exercises is to isolate the top three cervical vertebra and focus on improving their motion and stability. The motion in each exercise is surprisingly minimal, especially considering that each exercises can produce such powerful effects. When doing the exercises, take care to focus your attention on making “small, bird-like” movements of your upper cervical spine. If you feel like you are bending or twisting your entire neck, then you are moving too much. Essentially, the old writing adage of “less is more” applies here.

Having done these exercises hundreds of times, I can assure you that they definitely work. My biggest piece of advice is to explore restricting your motion to the top of your neck. Go slowly at first, and listen to your body. If your neck hurts doing these exercises, stop doing them. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself by trying to make things better.

Obviously, if you have a neck injury or a chronic cervical condition, please consult your health care practitioner before doing these (or any other) exercises.

Bottom line: Love yourself and send your neck love. A loving attitude towards your body has a greater healing potential than even the best of exercises.

Best of success,

Mark B. Saunders


avatar sharon carrNo Gravatar January 12, 2013 at 8:01 pm

I know you were mentioning getting a video of the movements for the c1 2 & 3. How would I purchase this. I would love three of them, as so many people I know suffer with this. If there is a phone number I could call, I would be very grateful. Thank you sooo much. Sharon


avatar adminNo Gravatar February 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm


I will get a video completed. It is on my to-do list. I will contact you as soon as I do.

Be well,

Mark B. Saunders


avatar ChandrasekaranNo Gravatar January 28, 2013 at 6:57 am

I have been diagnosed with cervical spondylitis recently. I feel giddy sometimes and slight pain at the back. Is it safe to perform these exercises.


B. Chandrasekaran


avatar adminNo Gravatar February 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Dear B.,

I am not a doctor or a physical therapists, and even if I were, I cannot examine you to evaluate your symptoms. All this is to say, I highly recommend you visit your health care practitioner and discuss your situation with them.

Best of luck.

Be well,

Mark B. Saunders


avatar chrisNo Gravatar February 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Hi Mark

I was taught these exercises a few years ago in the sitting position but got lazy and stopped doing them. Lying down seems far better as your head neck and body are more aligned and less likely to move or protrude. I fully understand what you are doing with your hands and neck (I was always taught to push my head into my hand so your way may give me a better outcome. Could you please clarify what you mean by chin in – do you mean tucked in as in chin on chest (double chin) and nose pointing to ceiling meaning the tip of the nose or the flat of the nose. Could you also tell me what TMJ pain stands for. Thanks.


avatar adminNo Gravatar February 17, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Dear Chris,

Glad to hear that you are using and teaching these exercises. “Chin in” means to keep your chin tucked towards your chest–not jammed in with force–but in a spinal neutral position. A good way to check your neck position while lying down is to place a finger at the base of your skull and find the space between the base of your skull and C1. Tilt your chin towards the ceiling, and that space opens up, bring your chin towards the floor, and it eventually disappears. You’re looking for the point where the space first begins to go away. That’s what I am calling “chin in.”

Good luck,

Mark B. Saunders


avatar JessicaNo Gravatar February 19, 2013 at 1:44 am

Hello Lori,
Thank you so much for the great article and responses. Can you describe your Lower abdominal and lower back exercises?
Thank you, Jessica


avatar OlyaNo Gravatar March 10, 2013 at 4:14 am

I had a surgery for chronic subdural heamatoma. I suffer from the problems of stiff neck, dizziness and virtigo. My neuro says that my heamatoma is gone and he can not help with my problems. Been to a chiro. He says my C1 is the issue. I feel that too.

Since I had a head surgery doing these exercises would be ok?


avatar adminNo Gravatar March 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Dear Olya,

I highly recommend that you discuss your condition with an expert — and unfortunately, I am not. I would look for a physician or physical therapist who specializes in upper cervical issues. Your hematoma requires special consideration, which should be addressed by an expert, as opposed to a general practitioner.

Whatever you do, please take good care of yourself and make smart decisions.

Be well,

Mark B. Saunders


avatar Pam AndersonNo Gravatar April 13, 2013 at 9:48 am

I’m desperately seeking a Dr who specializes in c1 and c2, I am located in Harrisburg Pa, I had surgery about 18 years ago and the fusion was not successful, as well There is a wire in there that is broken
I came across this website perhaps some one knows of a dr?


avatar RachelNo Gravatar April 22, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Hi Mark,
Video of these exercises PLEASE! :)
It just makes it easier to understand.


avatar HeatherNo Gravatar September 13, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Yes, I need a video too. Worried I am doing them wrong


avatar adminNo Gravatar September 14, 2013 at 10:38 pm


Yes, I know I need to get a video up for you guys. I will do that. The key to doing these exercises is to be gentle and keep the movement of your neck limited to the top two or three vertebra of your spine. If you do that, it’s hard to go too far wrong. If you would like a complete rundown on how to perform these exercises, I highly recommend you speak to the woman who introduced them to me, Lori Saige MPT. She works in Boulder, Colorado, and she is easy to find on the Internet.

Thank you,

Mark Saunders


avatar deeNo Gravatar May 15, 2013 at 3:25 am

Please post a video please! Not understanding difference between #2 and #3


avatar adminNo Gravatar May 23, 2013 at 2:03 am


It’s in the plans. If you have specific questions. Ask away.

Mark Saunders


avatar DonnaNo Gravatar May 30, 2013 at 3:30 am

I recently 2 months ago underwent a c2 ganglionectomy and c3 rhizotomey from the cell of my spine with less chance for the nerves to regenerate due to severe occiptical neuragila. I have severe facet diease in my c4&c5. My surgeon stated at last visit I need to get my neck moving. I still cannot not freely turn side to side or lean over. I’m trying different exercises similar to this but thought I may focus more on these exercises you have recommended I feel my dr would agree. Are you familiar with the surgery I had done?


avatar adminNo Gravatar May 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Dear Donna,

I am sorry to hear that you have had so much trauma to your neck. I am not familiar with the surgery you’ve had, so I cannot speak to the specifics of your condition. However, I highly recommend that you contact your doctor before undertaking these exercises or any others. This may just be me being a “nervous Nel,” but I never want to assume your doctor would approve or agree with you doing any sort of exercise program/plan without running it by him/her first.

That said, I do these exercises daily, and they have done wonders for my neck. Obviously, my neck isn’t your neck, and I don’t want either of us to stick our necks out unless your doctor approves of you doing these sorts of exercises.

Be well,

Mark Saunders
Bartlett’s Health


avatar GesuNo Gravatar June 9, 2013 at 1:16 am

I have been noticing little finger and ring finger numb and cramping sometimes( especially left hand. Sometimes left hand s so numb if I sleep with my palm facing down. I have mild tenderness on the top of the head all the time , upper back and lower back pain . I recently visited the doctor . He said that there is no dark shadow between c1 and c2 in the neck x ray(? Thin cartiledge). . I also experience problems iLife dizzy sometime and my arms cramps. Could you please give me some advices? Thank you


avatar Mark B SaundersNo Gravatar June 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Dear Gesu,

Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to offer you any medical suggestions. I’m not a doctor, and even if I was, making “suggestions” without a medical history and a physical exam would be fool hardy. That said, the two most important things you can do when experiencing any dis-ease in your body is 1. Listen to your body; it’s trying to tell you something. 2. Read everything you can about your symptoms/condition and what you can do to improve it — and there is almost always something you can do.

That said, a good physical therapist who is trained in cervical issues can be heaven sent. Also, I have personally received a great deal of relief from Prolozone injections. I suggest you take a look on the Internet and see what you can glean about the best practitioners in your area that are proficient in the treatment of cervical stenosis.

Be well,

Mark Saunders


avatar Ian McMullenNo Gravatar July 28, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Hi there I have been using your three exercises for five days now and they really do WORK for all the critics out there. I have gone as far as cancelling my fusion op on the 26/08/13 for c1 + c2. I have been having discomfort for three yrs now and I have tried Phyiso n chiro n NOT n heat patches. N it still did not work so back to pain killers {gen payne} about 20 a week for the last 3 yrs as this c1 n c2 was not detected until JULY 2013. I am also taking “life tones” acid clear which is also supposed to help. What is your TAKE on that one. Good or not good. Thanks once again for sharing and not charging for something that really works. I will be a ref to any one who may want to contact me. God bless U are a great help to society. Regards Ian Mac


avatar adminNo Gravatar August 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm


Delighted to hear that these stabilization and mobilization exercises have helped you. I do them religiously every day as well, sometimes a couple of times a day. How is your condition these days? Have you sought any additional interventions?

I have never heard of “life tones.” Perhaps you can share more of your experience with this product.

Thank you,

Mark Saunders


avatar HeatherNo Gravatar September 13, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Could you please do a video.
I am finding the instructions for the 2nd and 3rd hard to visualise


avatar RossNo Gravatar September 13, 2013 at 11:33 pm

I’ve been looking for methods to practice at home for alignment of the spine. Have had serious L5, S1 problems in the past. Then classic aura migraines began and have continued for over 25 years. Also have a lot of trouble now with neck, shoulders, back, and head, particularly left side of head and neck due to migraines. I have mobility in the neck and head fairly well, but constantly stiff, painful and inflamed, again due to migraines and poor spine alignment I believe.

Have you had any positive reports on these daily exercises from people with classic aura migaines? Just wondering. I plan to do these exercises 2 or 3 times daily. Thank you for putting this information on PT on the net.


avatar adminNo Gravatar September 14, 2013 at 10:22 pm


You’re welcome. I would love to get your feedback on these exercises. I probably do them twice a day, and they have all but eliminated the neck issues I was having with C1 & C2. I do not have any experience with aura migraines, nor have I had anyone write about them before. The person who turned me on to these exercises is Lori Saige MPT, who runs RPT in Boulder, Colorado. If you want a true expert opinion, I recommend you contact her.

Be well,

Mark Saunders


avatar RossNo Gravatar September 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm

It does seem as if #2 and #3 are the same exercise. Could you explain in what way they are different? I’m not sure what the purpose is, or the reason for the slight motion that is referred to as “taking up the slack” after each one in #3? Or exactly how it is to be done. Should the head return to the upright position after “taking up the slack” each time? That part is confusing. But that seems to be the only difference between #2 and #3 except for doing all four of the isometrics to the right and then doing all four to the left, instead of alternating right, left, etc. as is done in #2.

Look forward, also, to watching the video when it’s up. Thanks. Really appreciate this help being available here on the website. :)


avatar adminNo Gravatar September 14, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Hi Ross,

Common problem. Ultimately, if you’re doing the exercises correctly, you will receive the benefits, even though it seems like #2 and #3 are similar. The key is to focus on the very top segment of the cervical spine where the head and neck join.

Here’s the progression I use:

1. I do the first set of exercises by pressing my palm into my skull and then resisting that pressure with only the top part of my neck. I use less then max. pressure, so I can get the top two cervical vertebra to push my hand away. I start with my hand at my temple and move it back a couple of inches and repeat the exercise. I do this until I am at the very back of my head. These exercises are often accompanied by lots of pops and cracks.

2. I then move my head in arch like I’m trying to touch my ear to my shoulder. I move a couple of inches and the repeat the hand pressure. Move a couple inches and repeat. I do this on both sides of my neck.

3. I follow a similar pattern as in #2, except this time, I “chase my chin” with my ear, which means I continue to move my head so that my ear follows the same path as my chin as I bend my neck first one way, and then the other. Again, I apply hand pressure for four seconds at about every 2 inches of movement.

4. Once I’ve done all the exercises, I usually do some gentle movement of my neck with my hands while my head slides over the floor. This seems to work all the kinks out.

Then I’m good to go.

I hope this clarifies things for you.

Mark Saunders


avatar RossNo Gravatar September 15, 2013 at 1:17 am

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the help and clarification. Started these yesterday after having another aura migraine then did them again today twice. So far I like it and from what I’ve read about the Atlas/Axis area of the neck and how that can be a trouble spot for migraineurs, I think this is really worth a solid try. I’m going to continue to do some walking every day and some balance/stretching exercises with light strengthening exercises and get this body and neurovascular system in good running condition. :)

I’ll keep you posted on the isometrics and their effectiveness or not in helping me with reducing/preventing the classic migraines.

I’d contact Lori but I live in another country. You know, the one just north of yours. :) Thanks again. It’s great what you are all doing to help others.
Blessings to all.


avatar Susie CartwrightNo Gravatar March 1, 2014 at 6:53 pm

I have had severe neck, shoulder, and TMJ pain for 8 mos. Gave up and went to my doctor, who took x-rays and sent me to PT 3 weeks ago. I go twice a week, it helps a little but the “pinching” pain is still there. Yesterday I found your website and began the exercises last night. This is the first morning I woke up NOT in pain. I have done the exercises twice this morning. I cannot tell you how much better I feel. I must be doing them right, because I had relief right away. I slept so well. Thank You, Thank You!!! I am taking these into my PT on Monday morning, just to make sure I am doing them correctly.


avatar adminNo Gravatar March 1, 2014 at 9:03 pm

What wonderful news, Susie. I hope you and your PT can work together to customize the exercises for you and your condition. I have found them very effective, and use them just about every day. Once you start doing them daily, they become a habit. Occassionally, I’ll forget to do them and my neck will feel tight and cranky on one side. So I do the exercises, and it almost always makes things feel immediately better. I hope you have similar results.

Mark B. Saunders


avatar AnnieNo Gravatar March 8, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Thanks for posting. I thought the descriptions and diagrams were pretty clear. I felt better after one session, which took me very much by surprise.

Thanks again.


avatar adminNo Gravatar March 19, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Fabulous, Annie. I hope these exercises continue to provide you with relief.

Mark B. Saunders


avatar Linda OgleNo Gravatar March 19, 2014 at 9:45 am

Hi Mark

Do these three exercises put your C1/C2 back into alignment or should you go to the Chiropractor to get put back into alignment? Then are the exercises to keep the C1/C2 going out of alignment again? My neck’s out at the moment, and I’ve just tried the exercises and wondered if I was going any damage. However, I thought I would do them to see if they put my neck back in. My neck still feels out of alignment but maybe it will take a few more goes. Can you advise. Thanks, Linda.


avatar adminNo Gravatar March 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm


I am always one to seek professional help first. So, if your neck is out, going to visit your chiropractor is a good idea. That said, if you do these exercises and your neck feels better, then continuing to do them (perhaps in conjunction with seeing your chiropractor) makes sense. If doing these exercises makes your neck feel worse, please stop doing them. If you decide to go see your chiropractor, I recommend you ask him/her about these and other at-home exercises to help maintain healthly mobilization and stabilization of your uppper cervical spine. Bottom line: Listen to your body and follow its wisdom. You won’t go too far wrong.

I hope this helps,

Mark B. Saunders


avatar LouisNo Gravatar April 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm

I have C1 rotating to the right and C2/C3 roatating to the left. A lot of dizzyness/headaches. Do you think these exercises will work for this issue?


avatar adminNo Gravatar April 8, 2014 at 9:29 pm


These exercises are designed for symptoms like yours. That said, be careful and start slowly, especially if the rotation of your vertebrea is injury related. Try the exercises at half strength the first time, focusing on the technique. Stop if you feel any pain, tingling, or your dizziness gets worse. After a couple of day of doing the exercises 2-3 times per day, you may experience a shift in with the headaches and dizziness. If you don’t, I would consult with a chiropractor who specializes in upper cervical issues. Obviously, if you’ve had an injury, a complete evaluation of your upper spine is in order.

Best of success to you, and I look forward to hearing how things progress.

Be well,

Mark Saunders


avatar DianaNo Gravatar May 6, 2014 at 12:59 am

Thank you for the information. I have been going to PT and a chiropractor for a year for C4,C5, C6 and recently had blurry vision C 1,C2 so I Googled that and got your website. I did the exercises and got instant relief of my blurred vision as well as my shoulder and upper back. I can’t thank you enough for sharing you knowledge. Laying down was key in it working so well. I was very surprised that it worked so quickly. Thanks again, your an angel.


avatar adminNo Gravatar May 6, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Dear Diana,

You’re so welcome. I am very happy to hear that your vision is better — as well as your shoulder and upper back. What sweet relief.

I hope you continue to feel better.

Be well,

Mark Saunders
Bartlett’s Health


avatar Natalija SpasojevicNo Gravatar May 25, 2014 at 6:32 pm

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THESE EXERCISES!!! :) And, please, help me to understand the third:

“Repeat this exercise four times, doing each set for four full counts, and then side bending your head slightly further towards your chin.” – What is actually in this exercise, you need to work?? First blocking the movement, and then making a slight move with your head??
“Do this a total of four times, and then repeat on the other side.”

“Tip: As with the previous exercise, the trick here is to resist side bending your head from the base of your skull, while keeping the rest of your neck as steady as possible. Again, The movement you are trying to prevent is a small bird-like tilting of your head at top of the neck.”
SHOULD I PREVENT THAT LITTLE MOVEMENT (while counting to 4, and then make “a small bird-like tilting of my head at top of the neck”?

As you can see, English is not my mothers language, so it isn’t easy to understand.. :/

Best regards, Natalia


avatar Natalija SpasojevicNo Gravatar June 1, 2014 at 11:22 pm

I also, don’t understand, shoud I move my head in 1. and 2. exercise or not??


avatar adminNo Gravatar June 15, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Actually, your neck does move, but only slightly. The goal here is to engage the muscles at the very top of your neck — as oppossed to all the muscles in your neck. The more you can limit the amount of motion to the top two vertebrae, the more effective these exercises will become. The more you practice, the more you’ll begin to feel the tippy top of your neck starting to move while the rest of your neck remains static. It’s an acquired skill, but once you’ve got it dialed in, the results can be so powerful.

Mark Saunders


avatar adminNo Gravatar June 15, 2014 at 10:01 pm


All good questions.

In exercise 3, you are basically placing your head in a position other than anatomical neutral. (Specifically, your head is tilted to one side with your chin tucked in towards your chest.) In Exercises 1 and 2, your nose is pointed towards the ceiling. In Exercise 3, you nose it pointing towards one of your shoulders. I often try this exercise first by pushing against my right hand, and then pushing against my left. In both cases, I receive that feeling of my neck gently moving into it’s natural position. Sometimes it even clicks and pops into place, which can be satisfying in the same way a trip to the chiropractor’s is satisfying.

I should add that you don’t want to force anything. If you neck hurts at anytime during these exercises, back off on the pressure and the range of motion.

As always, let your body be your guide.

Mark Saunders


avatar Natalija SpasojevicNo Gravatar June 22, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Thank you, I’ll try! Hope there are no contraindications?
My dg. is:
- Spondilosis cervicalis C5-C6
- Spondylarthrosis cervicalis
- Kipfhosis cervicalis
- Discarthrosis C5-C6 cum Discus herniae (cervicalis)!!!
and maybe Scoliosis… :/

Best regards!


avatar CassandraNo Gravatar June 2, 2014 at 3:02 am

Looooooong story short – I have suffered for years with daily neck spasms which reverse the normal curve of my neck and have been proven on multiple MRIs to grind my cervical and thoracic spine together which results in bone spurs, herniated and bulging discs, facet hypertrophy and moooore, lol.

I’m not working and yet I still spasm when I do pretty much anything, strenuous or not and I’m desperately trying to find out why. I also have arterial and venous thoracic outlet syndrome and my body is falling apart because I very likely have hypermobile type Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (seeing a geneticist soon for a formal diagnosis).

I said I was going to make this short lol anyways, I am always right about what’s wrong with me (doctors have a habit of thinking I’m full of crap because there’s no open wound for my pain and weakness, that is, until the MRI reports come back in lol) and anyways, I know my symptoms related to the neck are from misaligned vertebrae at the top of my neck. I hear it click when I walk. I feel the pain when I lie on my side. I press the back of my skull and a sharp image in my brain of pain outlines the atlas out of position – like pain echolocation!! Hahaha, anyways…

I wanted to say I tried your first exercise and the one side felt sharp, stuck and there was some pain. I figured it is definitely targeting the right area and me wrenching my neck while upside down is just making it worse, but I’m desperate so I was happy for a more gentle self manipulation because I’ve already spent thousands on shifty chiropractors (don’t even get me started….. But there are also good honest ones out there too!!!) along with osteopathy, massage, acupuncture, anything except pain meds… Not even when I had proven spinal cord impingement and nerve root entrapment! Yes, I’m bragging haha just because I know my body is going to continue falling apart and I’m only 27 so I want to hold off on the pain meds til I’m suicidal with pain


avatar CassandraNo Gravatar June 2, 2014 at 3:06 am

(Sorry, looks like my long comment got cut off so here’s the other half!)

Okay, a bit off topic and dragging on but I’m seriously really excited because I did the other side of my neck and it felt fine no pain just some pressure and then after about 10 seconds, a sound and feeling of a click and a shift… And my neck ALREADY FEELS 75% BETTER!!!!

I am euphoric, I am sooo hopeful and thankful for your clear and concise directions and I really appreciate the explanations because as someone with google and chronic pain, I have been addicted to teaching myself honestly more than my doctors about my super rare and in curable conditions.

Anyways, just wanted to share my quick success!!!!! I am so happy with the immediate relief that I’m scared to do any more exercises today since my atlas is hypermobile and loves to slip around so I’ll take what I can get, haha!!

But seriously…. If this is something I can do on my own to prevent or even stop a spine degenerating spasm, it’s going to change my life!!!

A big THANK YOU!!! I would love to keep you updated as I hope this can help more people!! Once I know more about the results I’m going to post your link in my Ehlers Danlos forum as well as my thoracic outlet syndrome Facebook group to support you and see if they could benefit from it!

Have a wonderful evening


avatar adminNo Gravatar June 15, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Hi Casandra,

Wow! That’s some health story you have, and I am delighted to know that these exercises helped you neck. I have had similar experiences with these exercises, and it feels like heaven when they work.

I recommend that you do these exercises twice a day: before you leave the house in the morning and before you go to bed in the evening. The one caveat is “listen to your body.” If doing these or any other exercises causes you pain, then stop. Hippocrates, the father of Western Medicine, is credited with saying, “First, do no harm.” If you right side of your neck hurts when you do the exercises but you left side doesn’t, then work with the left side until the right side feels healthy enough to begin these exercises.

I’m delighted to hear how much they have helped you. I hope they continue to do so. I find that twice daily is the ideal amount of these types of exercise for me. Again, listen to your body. Once a day may be all you can handle to start.

I look forward to hearing another progress report.

Be well,

Mark Saunders


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: