Is it even possible to imagine having a neck strong enough to do that?
For many of our patients, the idea of using their neck to take out aggression is simple fantasy. They’re so bent out of shape, twisted, or stuck that even if they had the actual strength to use their neck as a battering ram, it would be about as effective as slamming a glass vase against a brick wall – left with nothing but a shattered heirloom.
That’s why so many of us resort to passive aggressive sighs and evil stares.
Honestly, even that would cause their necks to snap.
The tension and discomfort we feel after a night of tossing and turning or a day hunched over a computer screen trying to impress a boss whose name we don’t even know, can oftentimes be debilitating. As a chiropractor, we tell our patients suffering from neck pain that before they can alleviate the pain they must understand what is causing it.
Bad posture, surprise surprise, is the main culprit of neck pain. As the head shifts forward it brings the shoulders and back along with it. The muscles try to compensate to get everything back in line and that causes them to feel tight and stiff. Shallow breathing, especially when stressed, is another trigger. This forces the accessory breathing muscles, like the trapezius and pectoral muscles, to do the heavy lifting, instead of the diaphragm which allows for deep belly breaths.
The best neck pain relief stretches and exercises understand that neck pain is part of a larger system, so they don’t target just the neck. They work to restore flexibility and muscle imbalances to create a stable structure for the spine. Let’s explore some of the best neck exercises and stretches.
1. Prone Cobra Stretch
- Lie face down on the floor, placing a towel under the forehead cause we’re not savages.
- With hands up by the ears, pinch the shoulder blades together to bring hands off the floor.
- Gently lift the forehead off the towel, keeping the head facing down.
- Hold there for 10 seconds. Repeat this 5 to 10 times.
2. Behind the Back Drill
While you’re down there, try this stretch that activates the muscles that help us maintain upright, pain-free posture like the scapula, rhomboids, and trapezius. Kinda sounds like we’re in math class…
- Lying face down, place both palms down on the back of the head. Elbows should be pointed out to the sides.
- Extend the arms in a Y shape.
- Reach the arms as wide as possible and circle them down. The palms will naturally want to flip up as the arms circle down to the center of the lower back – let them! Hold there for 2 seconds.
- Circle arms back the way they came to return to the starting position and hold for 2 seconds. Repeat until you take flight or for 30 seconds, whichever comes first.
- Flip over on to the tush and lie face, with knees bent and feet hip width apart.
- With palms and feet firmly pressing into the ground, lift the hips off the floor. Feel free to clasp hands together for added support.
- Hold for two big belly breaths.
- This stretch is great for improving the mobility of the thoracic spine, which is in the middle of the back.
- Keep the core engaged, we don’t want to see any of this:
Ok, time to get up.
4. Chin Tuck
This will help to strengthen the muscles that hold up the neck that have become lengthened and weak from staring down at the phone, doubling tapping and swiping left at everyone. Swipe right, take a chance!
- Stand with both feet shoulder width apart and the upper spine against a wall.
- Face forward and let the back of the head touch the wall by tucking the chin in. Hence the name.
- Hold there for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.
5. Back Burn
- Stand with the back against the wall and heels about 4 inches from the wall.
- Pull the head straight back so that the head touches the wall without the chin pointing up.
- Keeping arms in constant contact with the wall, bring both hands over head and back down. Like a snow angel.
- Keep the abdominal muscles toward the spine to flatten the lower back against the wall throughout the entire arm movement.
- Repeat 10 times.
Boring, but informative.
6. Upper Trapezius Stretch
The traps run from the base of the neck down the shoulder. This is where a lot of neck pain comes from as this muscle gets tight for being overworked.
- Bend the ear towards the right shoulder taking care not to compensate by shrugging the shoulder to meet it.
- Gently rest the right hand on top of the neck to enhance the stretch. Extend the left arm down for an even deeper stretch.
- Hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat 5 times on each side.
7. Corner Stretch
We mustn’t forget about our pecs. Tightness in our pectorals can result in rounded shoulders and bad posture – the leading cause of neck pain! Corporate warriors, those that sit hunched over computers all day, are the leading offenders when it comes to poor posture.
- Stand in a corner with forearms against the wall so elbows are at a 90º angle.
- Lean forward until the stretch is felt through the chest.
- Hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat 5 times.
This can be done one arm at a time, both arms together, or at the edge of a wall or in a doorway. Use what’s available.
Not the easiest way to do it, but it works
For those of us that feel we can’t leave our desk for fear that productivity will suffer – I’m talking to the Virgos here – it is possible to move the neck through its full range of motion without even leaving our desk.
- Extension – looking up
- Flexion – looking down
- Lateral Flexion – side to side
- Rotation – turning left and right
As time goes on these stretches should become more and more comfortable which means that they can be held for longer or done multiple times a day. The ultimate goal is to improve neck flexibility and function which will work to alleviate neck pain.
Chronic neck pain may be a sign of a larger structural issue within the spine preventing the neck from fully healing and functioning properly. We’re neck pain pros. We’ll do everything we can to determine the exact cause of the structural issue and create a strategy for chiropractic care that will alleviate pain and have you like:
Proper spinal structure is the only way to ensure healthy nerve function and therefore healthy function of our body. Give us a call or schedule an appointment with one of our awesome chiropractors.