3 Easy Neck Stretches You Can Do Anywhere

Three Easy Neck Stretches You Can Do Anywhere, Anytime

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 20% of the worldwide population has suffered from some type of neck pain during the last three months. This isn’t surprising considering that many people stare at computers, or their smartphones, for the better part of the day. If you’ve ever had neck pain, you know how annoying and painful it can be; but it can also lead to other problems such as headaches, jaw pain, and upper back pain. The good news is that simple neck stretches, performed a few times a day, can help to improve your posture, minimize pain, and improve the flexibility of your neck.

Basic Anatomy of the Neck

Before we get into the details of the causes of neck pain, and the stretches you can do for relief, let’s discuss the basic anatomy of the neck.

The cervical spine (neck) consists of 7 vertebrae, which run from your skull to your upper torso, that are joined by facet joints. Ligaments, tendons, and muscles (commonly referred to as the soft tissues of the neck) connect the vertebrae and enable you to move your head in any direction. In between each vertebra is an intervertebral disc that acts as a shock absorber for the spine.

Common Causes of Neck Pain

There are a variety of things that can result in neck pain; below we’ll outline three common causes.

  • Neck Strains and Sprains

These types of neck injuries are often associated with motor vehicle and sporting accidents. They happen when the head moves forward, backward, or even sideways suddenly. This rapid movement stretches and sprains the soft tissues of the neck, leading to pain. However, poor posture can also result in neck strains and sprains. Neck stretching and strengthening exercises can help to improve posture, minimize pain, and improve flexibility of the affected neck muscles.

  • Tension

The muscles in the back of your neck are always contracted in order to maintain your body in an upright position. When you’re stressed, you usually tense these muscles further, which can lead to neck pain, and tension headaches. Neck stretching and strengthening exercises can help alleviate muscle tension and pain.

  • Cervical Spondylosis

This neck condition happens because of day-to-day overuse over a number of years. This condition causes weakening of intervertebral discs, wearing out of facet joints, and narrowing of spaces between the bones. Branches of bones called osteophytes develop at the ends of the facet joints and cervical vertebrae. These changes resemble those witnessed in osteoarthritis. Neck stretches, coupled with painkillers, can help you reduce pain and strengthen muscles.

3 Neck Stretches to Strengthen Your Neck Muscles and Ease Pain

There are numerous stretches you can do to minimize your neck pain and improve range of motion and function of your neck. While you may notice optimal results from stretching after a long, hot shower that helps to loosen up the muscles of your neck, we’ve outlined 3 simple stretches you can do anywhere, anytime to get a little relief.

  1. Lateral Flexion Neck Stretch

How to do it:

  • Tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder
  • Reach over your head with your left hand and gently pull to lower your left ear closer to your shoulder.
  • Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Switch sides.
  • Aim for 3 repetitions of this stretch on each side.
  1. Behind the Back Neck Stretch

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet positioned hip-width apart with your arms hanging at your sides.
  • Reach both of your hands behind your back.
  • Hold your right wrist with your left hand.
  • Use your left hand to straighten your right arm by gently pulling it down and away from your body.
  • Slowly lower your left ear toward your shoulder.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  • Switch sides.
  • Aim for 3 repetitions of this stretch on each side.
  1. Neck Retraction

How to do it:

  • Begin seated in a chair.
  • Slightly tuck your chin in and gently slide your head back toward your spine (imagine you have a headrest behind you that you’re trying to touch the back of your head to).
  • Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds. 
  • Aim for 5 to 10 repetitions of this exercise.

Keep in mind that if a stretch results in an increase in discomfort while you’re performing it, discontinue it and consult your physical therapist.

Conclusion

Daily neck stretches can help improve your posture, minimize neck pain, and improve the flexibility of your neck. However, if you have a history of prolonged neck pain, serious health conditions, or have had previous neck surgery, it’s advisable to consult a physical therapist before starting a new stretching program. The physical therapists at Hershey Rehabilitation can help to ensure that the stretches you’re doing are safe and effective for your condition.