When the head and shoulders drift forward, certain muscles shorten and become tight. This perpetuates the posture that causes neck pain.
The following stretching exercises can help relieve neck pain:
A basic exercise that is important for stretching the chest and shoulder muscles is the corner stretch. It is performed in the corner of a room.
This neck stretch is done as follows:
- Patients stand approximately two feet back from the corner, facing into the corner.
- Feet should be together.
- Forearms are placed on each wall, and elbows are a little below shoulder height (Figure 1).
- Lean in as far as possible without pain. Patients will feel a stretch in the front of the shoulders and chest (Figure 2).
- Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds to a minute.
This stretch can be performed 3 to 5 times per day. It should be done before doing any neck strengthening exercises.
Levator Scapula Stretch
The levator scapula stretch is also important for eliminating neck pain. The levator scapula is a muscle that often becomes tight and may be very tender where it attaches to the shoulder blade. This stretch can be performed while sitting or standing.
- Lengthen the muscle by raising the elbow above the shoulder on the side to stretch.
- In this position, first rest the elbow against a door jamb. This rotates the outside of shoulder blade up and the inside of it down, which lengthens the levator scapula muscle (Figure 3).
- Second, turn the head away from the side that is stretching and bring the chin down, stretching the back of the neck (Figure 4).
- Third, place the fingers of the other hand on the top of the head and gently pull the head forward increasing the stretch slightly (Figure 5).
- Hold this for about 30 seconds to a minute.
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Some studies have shown that it is important to stretch tight muscles before strengthening the weak muscles. It is believed that tight muscles after being stretched can then relax, making the subsequent strengthening exercises more effective.
Stretches for the neck should never be done to the point of pain or soreness. Appropriate pain management is often an important part of any neck stretching routine.