Neck Pain Relief: Essential Stretches
Millions of Americans each year suffer from temporary or chronic neck pain. It can be a disabling condition because it will limit your physical abilities and take a significant toll on the mind. This affects all aspects of your life — work, social life and hobbies.
When you suffer from pain, it may be tempting to turn toward pain killers; but those only offer temporary relief. They don’t address the root issue and repeated use is detrimental to your health in the long run. As a chiropractor, my practice is dedicated to treating patients by fixing the causes of pain, not just treating the pain itself. I encourage my patients to employ stretches and exercises outside of my office for muscle strengthening, conditioning and expansion of range of motion.
Whether you have a kink in your neck caused by sleeping funny, you’ve had a stressful work week, or if you just want to get more limber, neck exercises are a great way to reduce pain and prevent it in the future. Here are some stretches you can do any time — even at work!
Standing Neck Stretch
This stretch targets the main muscles that contribute to tension pain. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width and a slight bend in the knees. Slowly tilt your head to the left, bringing your left ear as close as possible to your left shoulder while looking forward. Slightly turn your chin toward the floor and hold this pose for 15 seconds. Slowly lift the head to an upright position and repeat, this time to the right side.
To restore or maintain your neck’s range of motion, do head turns once or twice every day. To begin, sit up straight in your chair or stand up, feet shoulder-width apart. Take a deep breath and slowly exhale. As you exhale, slowly turn your head to the left as if you’re looking over your shoulder. Once your head is fully turned, hold the position for one second and slowly begin to inhale. As you inhale, slowly rotate your head back to its original position. Hold for one second. Slowly inhale once again and this time turn your head to the right. Repeat this entire process 4 times.
The Arm Pull
This stretch is done standing up and stretches the sides of the neck. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Let both hands hang behind your back. Grab your left wrist with your right hand. With your right hand, slowly pull your left arm to straighten it and gently pull it straight back, away from the body. Increase the stretch by lowering your right ear toward your shoulder. Hold this pose for 15 seconds and switch sides.
This is one of the easiest yet most effective stretches. You can do it standing up or sitting down. Simply sit or stand up with your back straightened. Look straight ahead. Slowly lower your head, bringing your chin to your chest. Hold for 15–30 seconds. Take a deep breath and bring your head back to its original position as you exhale. Tilt your head up so that you’re looking at the ceiling, bringing the base of your skull to your back. Hold for 10 seconds and then slowly bring your head back down to its original position. Repeat 5 times.
Shoulder rolls are one of the most common and prominent stretches among athletes — and for good reason. They relieve tension, stiffness and stress while promoting better circulation in the joints. Simply raise your shoulders up toward your ears and move them in a circular motion as your hands remain at your sides. Do this 5–10 times. Return to the starting position and repeat, this time rotating the shoulders in a circular motion backwards.
Stretches are great at-home exercises to relieve temporary pain caused by stress or tension. It’s also great to strengthen the muscles and build better range of motion to prevent injury in the future. However, if you suffer from intense and chronic neck pain, every day, there may be a more elaborate underlying issue — especially if you’ve experienced a recent accident or injury. To maintain your health, it’s in your best interest to schedule a chiropractic evaluation.