When the neck and upper back muscles weaken, the head sags forward and stress is placed on the cervical spine, often leading to neck pain. You can strengthen these muscles to help improve your posture and relieve neck pain.
Stand with your upper back against a wall or door jamb, your feet shoulder width apart. Facing forward, tuck your chin down and pull your head straight back until it touches the wall. Hold this stretch for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times. The chin tuck exercise helps strengthen the muscles that align your head over your shoulders (upper thoracic extensors), and stretches the scalene and suboccipital muscles.
Lie face down on the ground, a towel positioned underneath your forehead. Place your arms at your sides, palms against the ground and above your shoulders. Pinch your shoulder blades together and gently bring your arms off the ground. Lift your forehead an inch off the towel, your eyes looking down at the ground. Hold this position for 10 seconds, and try to perform this exercise 5 to 10 times. The prone cobra strengthens the muscles of the shoulder girdle as well as the neck and upper back.
Stand with your back against a wall and your heels 4 inches from the wall. Pull your head straight back so that it touches the wall. Then place your arms against the wall, with the back of your hands touching the wall, at shoulder level. Keeping your arms in constant contact with the wall, slowly bring your hands over your head, and then back down to shoulder level. Repeat this exercise 10 times. The back burn strengthens back muscles and helps open up tight chest muscles.