With all that sitting and staring at computer screens, it’s no wonder that so many of us experience neck pain. A survey from the National Institute of Health Statistics identified neck pain as one of the most common types of pain suffered by adult Americans, with women more likely to experience it than men. (1)
Neck pain can be acute (short-term), or chronic (lasting over three months). Common factors of neck pain include: (2)
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- Weak and overused muscles from sitting at a desk all day
- Sleeping in an awkward position
- Injury (like whiplash)
- Exposure to a draft
- Pinching of nerves
- Wear and tear on the cervical vertebrae, or a slipped disk
When it comes to neck pain, it’s always important to check with your doctor to make sure it’s nothing serious. If your neck pain is due to muscular tightness, try these stretching and strengthening exercises to loosen up your muscles.
Tip: You can also try applying heat, not ice, to find relief from your neck pain.
No equipment necessary to do these easy stretches! Just find a comfortable seat and get ready to relieve neck tension fast.
5 Stretches for Neck Pain
Neck Rolls | 10 reps
This move targets the back and the sides of the neck to loosen tight muscles.
- Sit upright and place your palms face down on your thighs.
- Keep your head facing forward. On an inhale, gently allow your right ear to lower towards your right shoulder. You should feel a nice release through the left side of your neck. Hold for a moment and then exhale to roll your chin down towards your chest.
- Then, inhale to roll your left ear up towards your left shoulder. Hold for a moment and then exhale to lower your chin back down towards your chest.
- Continue rolling from side to side 10 times.
Lateral Flexion A | 8 breaths per side
Use this stretch to feel a sweet release through the back and sides of your neck.
- Sit upright. Make a fist with your left hand and reach your left arm around your lower back.
- Grab ahold of your left wrist with your right hand and pull the left hand around to rest behind your right hip. Point your right elbow back behind you and lower your shoulders away from your ears.
- Keep your head facing forward and on an exhale, gently allow your right ear to lower towards your right shoulder. You should feel a nice release through the left side of your neck.
- Stay for 8 breaths, allowing the left side of your neck to release, then inhale to bring your head back up to center.
- Switch sides.
Lateral Flexion B | 30 seconds per side
Use this stretch to open up the muscles in your neck that extend up to your ear.
- To begin, sit up tall. Bend your left arm and reach it behind your lower back.
- Lower your right ear towards your right shoulder, then tilt your chin down and to the right so that you are looking towards your right hip.
- Place your right hand on the left side of the back of your head and apply gentle pressure (do NOT pull) until you feel a stretch through the back left of the neck.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.
Lateral Rotation | 3 reps per side
This move uses an isometric contraction before the stretch to help increase range of motion.
- Sit tall and place your palms face down on your thighs.
- On an exhale, turn your cheek to the right. Notice how far you are able to turn your head. Then, place your right palm on your right cheek and gently press your cheek into your palm for 5-10 seconds.
- Turn your head back to center and rest for 30 seconds. Repeat that 2 more times.
- Now check your range of motion by turning your head to the right on an exhale. Notice if you are now able to turn your head even further.
- Repeat on the left side.
Scalene Stretch | 20 seconds per side
This stretch relieves tension in the scalene muscles on the front of the neck.
- Sit up tall. Place your right hand on your left shoulder and apply gentle pressure.
- Rotate your head to the left at a 45-degree angle, then tilt your chin upwards. You should feel a stretch through the left front side of your neck.
- Hold for 20 seconds, then switch sides.