Suffering from neck pain or a stiff neck?
Most of us have had to deal with the annoying discomfort or tightness in our necks after spending a long day hunched over your computer screen or poor sleep. In fact, a widely cited study published in the European Spine Journal notes that the prevalence of neck pain is anywhere between 17% and 75% of the global population.
According to another 2017 study in the Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, the culprits to that nagging stiff neck may be psychosocial (e.g., stress), behavioral (e.g., smoking or staring at screens), individual factors such as body mass index, or ergonomic (e.g., strenuous physical activities).
Best Neck Stretches for Neck Pain
If your stiff neck is a ‘pain in the neck’ (pun not intended), here are a few neck-stretch exercises for relief according to Dr. John Evans from ProTailored Physical Therapy.
Exercise 1 – Side Rotation
This exercise for neck pain relief can be done while standing or while you’re seated. (PS: Keep your moves smooth and slow; avoid jerky motion).
- Find the side that most stiff or painful.
- If the neck pain is more intense on the left, focus the exercise to the right side.
- Face straight ahead and gently rotate your neck to the right 20 times.
- After a set of 20 rotation to the right, try rotating your head to the left again—see if it’s a little better.
- Next, rotate your head back to the right (as far as you can) and oscillating back and forth 20 times at that end (i.e., maintain your head to the right).
- Repeat this exercise until you’re satisfied with the neck pain relief.
Exercise 2 – Chin Tucks
The ‘chin tuck’ neck stretch is a technique that we like to prescribe at ProTailored Physical Therapy due to its effectiveness and simplicity. Here’s what it entails:
- Make a double chin by tucking your chin down, pushing your head straight back (feel free to use your fingers for extra force/pressure).
- Hold the position for around 3 seconds. If done right, you should feel a pull at the base of your skull.
- Repeat the ‘double chin’ exercise for 30 times in a row for neck pain relief.
Exercise 3 – Upper Trapezius Stretch
This exercise focuses on the upper trapezius (i.e. that muscle on top of your shoulder)—which is often associated with headaches.
- Find something to wedge on your shoulder such as a tennis ball or baseball.
- Place the ball in the middle of your shoulder (meaty part) away from the neck. (Tip: You can use the seam of your shirt as a guide).
- Now, find a doorframe and lean on it as if you’re trying to push it backwards—with the ball between your shoulder and the door frame.
- While in that leaning posture, move your arm back and forth 30 different times.
Exercise 4 – Side Tilt
The final neck stretch exercise by ProTailored Physical Therapy (for now) if the side tilt that focuses on you scalene and upper traps.
- Bend your head away from the neck pain until you feel a gradual stretch inside your neck.
- While still in the ‘side tilt’ position, gently rotate your head up (i.e. try looking at the ceiling). You should start feeling more pull in the front of your neck.
- Sink the shoulder on the stretched side a little further and focus on deep breathing for approximately 30 seconds.
- Repeat the process 3 times and you should feel some neck pain relief.
Neck stretches are both effective and simple exercises for neck pain relief. You can incorporate these techniques into your daily routine—especially if you tend to spend endless hours in front of a screen.
For more on neck pain relief, reach out to ProTailored Physical Therapy or call us at (260) 739-0300.