Neck Pain, Stretch to Try and Relieve Tension

Neck pain is a painfully common ailment. Thankfully, it’s also relatively easy to prevent and to treat, at least most of the time. Exercising and stretching can help improve the function of your neck, increasing the strength and flexibility of the muscles that support your head. In many cases, stretches and exercise can help reduce or eliminate pain and loosen tension in the neck, as well as preventing pain from developing in the future and helping prevent problems in areas adjacent to the neck, like the shoulders and upper back.

If you are currently experiencing neck pain, talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise and stretching regimen, and don’t do any exercises that increase your neck pain. While some tension should be expected, if you feel pain, stop the exercise immediately.

The first exercise can be done while standing or seated. Begin with your head aligned squarely with your shoulders and keep your back straight. Moving slowly and smoothly, lower your chin to your chest and hold it there for 15 to 30 seconds. Slowly lift your head back up. Then, tilt your chin toward the ceiling, allowing the base of the skull to reach toward the back. Hold in this position for 10 seconds, and then return to your starting position. Repeat this forward and backward tilting action several times, and do this exercise every day.

The next exercise, the side tilt, is performed while standing. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, with your arms relaxed by your sides. Gently and without force, tilt your head toward your right shoulder. Reach toward your shoulder with your ear, but don’t raise your shoulder to meet your ear, and stop reaching when you feel a stretch in the side of your neck. Hold the head toward the ear for 5 to 10 seconds, and then return your head to an upright position. Repeat the stretch on your left side. Work toward 10 repetitions of this exercise. If you desire a deeper stretch, you can place your hand on the side of your head and apply light pressure with your finger tips, gently pressing the head toward your shoulder.

Side rotation can be performed while standing or sitting. Keeping your head aligned squarely with your shoulders and your back straight, slowly turn your head to the right. You should feel a stretch in the left side of your neck and in your left shoulder. Hold the rotation for 15 to 30 seconds, and then slowly release your head back to the starting position. Then, repeat this motion on your left side. Complete up to 10 sets.

Shoulder roll is easiest and most effective when done standing up. Raise your shoulders up toward your ears, and then roll them in a circular motion going forward. Roll them forward 6 times. Return to the start position, and then roll the shoulders backward 6 times, moving slowly and gently.

Performing these gentle stretching and strengthening exercises daily can help fend off neck pain and relieve tension in your neck and shoulders. If you have neck pain that persists for more than a few days, see a doctor for a medical evaluation.

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