Chin Tuck Chin Nod Exercise

The Chin Tuck and Chin Nod Exercises

Chin Tuck Chin Nod ExerciseToday’s post is a quick and dirty video technique post on the chin tuck exercise technique.  The chin tuck is a pretty common exercises used for neck pain and postural adaptations.  The chin tuck exercise essentially works on upper cervical extension and lower cervical flexion.  I like using it as part of my reverse posturing series of exercises to get out of the forward head, rounded shoulder posture that we see so often, essentially Janda’s Upper Body Cross Syndrome.

While I do use the chin tuck exercise, I do sometimes find that it can be performed too aggressively by some, especially if you are having some acute neck pain.  You don’t want to jam you neck straight back and combine upper cervical flexion with a shear force.  My good friend and excellent therapist Todd Howatt turned me on to this over a decade ago.

Rather than aggressively shear your upper cervical spine, you may want to start with more of a chin nod rather than a chin tuck.  Perhaps this is just nomenclature, but the visual shouldn’t be “jam your head straight back” but rather to imagine a dowel going through your head between both ears.  You want to rotate your head around this dowel and essentially perform a nodding motion.  I tell my patients to focus on feeling a stretching sensation in their suboccipital region.

This movement can be performed both standing (or sitting in your car, wink, wink…) and lying on your back.  I usually start lying down to prevent the jamming back movement.  I will often instruct to use your hands on each side of your head to help with the rotational movement around the dowel concept.  You can use this as part of reverse posturing, repeated movements, or for deep neck flexor strengthening.  To focus on strengthening, gradually work up to slightly lifting your head off the table and holding for a duration of time.

Check out the video below for some visuals:

What do you think?  I am still pro using the chin tuck exercise at times, but also incorporate a chin nod exercise when the chin tuck is uncomfortable or with acute neck pain.


12 replies
  1. Juliemorris
    Juliemorris says:

    Joining this late, but what do you think about instructing to lift the crown of the head toward the ceiling(if upright)as if drawn by a string This seems to draw the cervical spine to a centered position but I think it feels less tense, and more naturally elongated than the chin tuck. Maybe the skateboard image does the same thing?

  2. Bob Schroedter
    Bob Schroedter says:

    Joint mobility aside, let’s not forget the neuromuscular component to these stabilization exercises being discussed. Part of the goal is to train the deep neck flexors to assist with supporting the neck. In a recent PT Con Ed interview Gwendolyn Jull described her preferred use of the image of sliding the back of the head away from the feet to optimize the activation of the proper target musculature. I have since adapted the image to include a small skateboard under the head which rolls slightly away from the body.

  3. Justin
    Justin says:

    I would agree, The tuck is good for Ct junction extension and for Cervical disc issues to create centralization. The nod is a good exercise for suboccipital stretching and occiput flexion mobilization.

  4. Dave
    Dave says:

    unfortunately the chin nod doesn’t get movement down into the CT junction and upper thoracic spine like retraction does. So many of these pt’s need to move there.

    • Mike Reinold
      Mike Reinold says:

      Dave, absolutely, good call. I should say I still perform a chin tuck, just sometimes you need a nod in your toolbox too!

      I’ll post a follow up to this that should flow well with both Dan and Dave’s comments (feels like the 1992 olympics…).

  5. Dan
    Dan says:

    When performing the supine chin tuck, is it recommended to keep the pelvis/lumbar spine stable during the movement? If not, what position should be cued or observed in the lumbo-pelvic region?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] The individual is instructed to push their chin straight back and hold for 10-15 seconds. This exercise can be done several times easily throughout the day at work, driving, etc. This is to be done in 5 rep increments at first, then the individual may slowly increase to 10 reps per session. Approximately 5-10 sessions per day can be done as needed (click here for more information on chin tuck and neck retraction exercises.) […]

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