Exercises for Neck Pain: Stretch the Pain Away

exercises for neck painA pain in the neck, (and I mean a physical pain in your neck, not the person whistling loudly on the bus), can happen to anyone and may have many causes, including poor posture and muscle strain. Neck pains are mostly minor and last for short amounts of time, usually for a few months at the most. Most neck issues can be resolved by exercises that stretch and strengthen the neck and shoulder area. If the issue persists, a doctor or chiropractor should be consulted for more intense exercises or prescription drugs.

Causes and Symptoms of Neck Pain

Neck pain is usually a relatively minor injury and can be helped with simple exercises and stretches. Because the neck is connected with the back and shoulders, a strain or injury in those areas may affect the neck as well. Neck pain can be caused by several factors: worn joints caused by old age or overuse; trauma due to injuries, such as whiplash or sports injuries; poor posture; tumors; muscle strain caused by overuse or continually sitting in an awkward position.

You may not notice neck pain until you turn it a certain way and the pain can range in intensity from a dull ache to a very intense electric-shock sensation. Numbness may also occur, as well as muscle weakness. Most neck issues last for only a short time, but even more chronic problems can be solved with stretching, massages, acupuncture and a few simple exercises.

Exercises to Get Rid of Neck Pain

These neck exercises are useful for getting rid of existing neck pain as well as building strength in the neck in order to prevent potential neck issues in the future. They are also quite convenient and can be done anywhere at anytime, like the office, in the car or on an airplane. If you have a heating pad, it may prove beneficial to apply it to your neck before these exercises to warm up the muscles. After the exercises, a cold pack or bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel may be applied to reduce inflammation.

NECK STRENGTHENING EXERCISES

Chin Tuck – This postural exercise stretches and strengthens the muscles that pull the head back into alignment over the shoulders. Not only will this exercise build strength, it can be done as soon as neck pains appear to prevent from becoming worse. When you’re comfortable with this exercise, it can be performed at work or, even in a car with the help of the headrest.

  1. With your spine against the wall and your feet 3 inches out from the bottom of the wall, pull the upper back and head back until the back of your head touches the wall with your chin down so that your head is pulled straight back and not looking up.
  2. Hold your head against the wall for 5 seconds then release.
  3. Repeat 10 times.
  4. After you’re used to performing the exercise without the help of the wall, you can do it while sitting or standing, from 5 to 7 times a day.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze – The neck, shoulders and back are all connected and this exercise works your neck as well as upper back.

  1. Sit up straight with your chin tucked in slightly and your shoulders pushed back just a bit.
  2. Slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together as far and as hard as possible, making sure it does not cause you any pain.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds, release and repeat 10 times.

WEIGHT TRAINING EXERCISES

These simple strength-building exercises utilize 2-5 lbs. dumbbells with knees slightly bent. Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 3 times a week on non-consecutive days. (Taking a day off between your workouts allows your muscles to rest and rebuild; if you exhaust the same muscle groups two days in a row, you risk injury, so plan to do these exercises on alternating, non-consecutive days.)

Shoulder Shrugs

  1. Hold arms at sides, palms facing in.
  2. Keeping arms straight, pull shoulders up to ears then pause for 3 seconds and lower.

Reverse Flies

  1. Bend forward so your chest faces the floor with your arms hanging down and palms in.
  2. Bend your elbows slightly, squeeze your shoulder blades and raise your arms side to side, parallel to the floor.
  3. Pause 3 seconds then lower.

Upright Row

  1. Starting with your palms in front of your thighs and facing your legs.
  2. Bend your elbows out to the sides and pull the weights up to around collarbone level.
  3. Pause 3 seconds then lower.

EXERCISES FOR NECK PAIN

Neck Tilt

  1. Tilt your head down toward your shoulder, leading with your ear.
  2. Gently tense the neck muscles and hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Return your head to the center and repeat on the opposite side.
  4. Tilt your head down to rest your chin on your chest.
  5. Gently tense your neck muscles and hold for 5 seconds.
  6. Repeat 5 times on each side.

*NOTE* You can add resistance to this exercise by putting your palm on your face and gently pushing against the direction you are tilting your neck. If it hurts, you’re pushing too hard; relax, and don’t apply enough force with your palm that you are in discomfort.

Neck Stretch

  1. Keeping the rest of your body straight, push your chin forward so your throat is stretched.
  2. Gently tense your neck muscles and hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Return your head to the center position and push it backwards, keeping your chin up. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat 5 times.

Neck pain is a common affliction and is usually not very serious, from a medical perspective. With the help of these strengthening and pain-alleviating exercises, any neck pain should begin to go away within 2 weeks and within 4-6 weeks you should be mostly healed. Continuing these exercises for anywhere between 6-8 weeks should help prevent the symptoms from ever returning. If pain or weakness persists, or if you have any doubts that your pain is caused by anything other than simple posture habits or everyday muscle tension, contact your doctor or a chiropractor.