Tension? Stress? When it comes to neck pain, a little bit of maintenance can go a long way. Take a moment to learn about these quick movements that might bring some alleviation to your discomfort.
I work with chiropractors and physical therapists; approximately half of our patients come in for upper back or neck pain and the majority of them work 9-5 desk jobs.
With the increased use of smart phones and computers, it’s become more and more common for us to spend our days with our heads down and shoulders hunched.
Here are a few quick stretches that you should incorporate into your daily routine that will make a difference in the long run.
Lateral Neck Stretch:
Actively engage your muscles so that your right shoulder will remain down as you do these stretches; if you’re sitting, a good alternative would be to loop your right hand under and grab the edge of the chair. Look straight ahead and bring your left hand over your head to reach around to the right side. Slowly bend your head towards your left shoulder to stretch the right side of your neck. Use your left hand to apply additional resistance. Hold a mild stretch for 30 seconds and repeat again on the opposite side. Repeat 3 times total on each side.
Levator Scapulae Stretch:
The levator scapulae is often associated with tension headaches. Begin by engaging your left shoulder or grabbing the edge of the chair to keep your shoulder pinned down. Turn your head approximately 45 degrees to the right and bring your chin towards your chest. Use your right hand to apply additional pressure from the top of your head. You should feel a mild stretch to the left side of your posterior (back) neck. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side for a total of 3 sets.
Posterior Neck and Upper Back Stretch:
Look straight ahead and interlace your fingers behind your head. Be sure to sit upright as you begin to tuck your chin towards your chest and tilt your head towards the ground. Use your hands to apply additional pressure and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 more times.
Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) Stretch:
The SCM is one of the largest muscles in the neck. To perform this stretch, again, keep your left shoulder pinned down. Bring your head back so that your ears are in line with your shoulders and your chin is parallel with the floor. While looking straight, tilt your head to the right and rotate it to the left. You should feel a stretch on the left side. Use your right hand to cradle your head and apply gentle pressure. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the right side. Perform a total of 3 sets on each side.
In addition to the stretches, this one exercise will help to strengthen your neck musculature so that you can maintain proper posture with more ease over a longer period of time.
Begin by looking straight forward. Pull your head back so that your ear lines up with your shoulders. Be sure to not tuck the chin towards the neck, but rather to maintain a neutral position throughout. (Don’t worry, the double chin happens with everyone.) Hold this position for 3 seconds and repeat this exercise for 3 sets of 12.
Do these simple exercises at least a few times throughout the day to maintain healthy mobility in your cervical spine.
Disclaimer: these exercises are not meant to be used as the sole means for therapeutic care if you are in serious pain. Please do visit a health care provider if your pain is severe or if you have any history of disk-related disorders, fractures, or any structural deviations.
Comment below to let me know if you have any questions or would like more information! What are some stretches that you like to do on a day-to-day basis?