If your neck is stiff or sore, you have lots of company. Neck pain is one of the most common types of pain among Americans. But as with any other part of your body, exercises and stretches can make the muscles in your neck stronger and more limber. Try these moves to loosen a tense neck, banish pain, and gain flexibility.
Bonus: A strong neck can help prevent problems with your shoulders, upper back, and arms, too.
If you already have pain in your neck or elsewhere, talk to your doctor before you start. You will feel some tension in your neck muscles when you stretch. But you shouldn’t have pain. If you do, stop right away.
Sub-Occipital and Forward and Backward Tilt
This can be done while you’re seated or on your feet. Keep your moves slow and smooth.
Lower your chin toward your chest and hold for 15-30 seconds. Relax, and slowly lift your head back up.
- Apply a force to the front of your chin as to gently glide the chin backwards. Hold for 10 seconds then relax. Repeat 3 times.
Tilt your chin up toward the ceiling and bring the base of your skull toward your back. Hold for 10 seconds, then return to the start position.
Do this while standing, with your feet hip-width apart and arms down by your sides.
Gently tilt your head toward your right shoulder and try to touch it with your ear. Stop when you feel the stretch. Don’t raise your shoulder.
Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds, then return to the start position.
Repeat on your left side. You can do several sets and work your way up to 10 repetitions.
You can do this while seated or standing.
Keep your head squarely over your shoulders and your back straight.
Slowly roll shoulders forward, then, up towards ears, back towards scapula and back down to arms by side.
Repeat 5 times then reverse direction.
When to see a doctor
Most neck pain improves gradually with home treatment. If not, see your doctor.
Seek immediate care if severe neck pain results from an injury, such as a motor vehicle accident, diving accident or fall.
Contact a doctor if your neck pain:
- Is severe
- Persists for several days without relief
- Spreads down arms or legs
- Is accompanied by headache, numbness, weakness or tingling