Poor posture is a common cause of recurring neck pain and stiffness. In most cases, daily neck stretches and exercises are recommended to improve posture and reduce the risk of neck pain returning or becoming worse. When performed multiple times throughout the day, the following easy stretches and exercises for the neck may bring even more relief.
Stretches and Exercises to Perform Throughout the Day
When neck pain is related to poor posture, more than just the neck needs to be addressed. Muscles in the chest, upper back, and shoulders can all potentially contribute to a hunched-forward position that may lead to neck pain. As such, the following 3 stretches and exercises are commonly recommended for counteracting poor posture and reducing neck pain:
- Chin tuck. This exercise strengthens the muscles that pull the head back into alignment above the shoulders. It also stretches muscles at the side of the neck and base of the skull.
- Levator scapulae stretch. This stretch works on the levator scapulae, which is a long muscle that runs down the side of the neck and attaches into the shoulder. The levator scapulae is one of the more common neck muscles to become injured, tight, and/or tender.
- Chest stretch. Various stretches can help open up a tight chest, which is important for bringing the shoulders further back and allowing for good posture. A common one is the corner stretch. If a corner is not available, other options, including seated chest stretch options, are also available.
These exercises and stretches should be performed multiple times throughout the day, depending on the person’s comfort level and how the stretches feel. More details about how to perform these exercises and stretches are outlined later in the article.
Benefits of Stretching the Neck Throughout the Day
Neck muscles can become fatigued or tightened at any point in the day. The neck is particularly vulnerable to becoming sore when it goes through long periods of relative inactivity or overuse. Doing simple neck exercises and stretches a few times throughout the day can help:
- Reduce muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, upper back, and chest.
- Promote and reinforce good postural habits throughout the day.
See Neck Stretches
Getting into the routine of performing neck may not be easy at first. It typically takes some practice and planning to make daily neck stretching a habit that is performed throughout the day.
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Other Exercises to Reduce Neck Pain
In addition to easy neck exercises and stretches that can be done daily, other exercises that may help reduce neck pain as part of a more whole-body program include:
- Core exercises. Strengthening the core (torso or trunk) muscles—those that support the spine—can help make it easier to hold good posture. Exercises to increase core strength are typically done every other day to give the muscles time to recover. Some examples of core exercises include planks (front and side) and prone cobras. Practicing yoga or Pilates may also help achieve similar goals of improved body flexibility and strength.
- Aerobic exercise. These exercises can be sustained with an elevated breathing level and heart rate, such as brisk walking, jogging, or swimming. Aerobic exercise increases blood circulation throughout the body and also can release endorphins, which may help reduce pain in some cases. Light to moderate aerobic exercises can be performed daily, but more intense aerobic exercises might need a full day of recovery in between workout sessions.
Numerous other exercises may be considered and can depend on various factors, including a person’s health status, schedule, and preferences.
When to Consult a Health Professional
For people who have had neck surgery, a history of chronic neck pain, or a serious medical condition, it is advised to check with a health care provider regarding which movements may or may not be recommended. Sometimes a physical therapist or other medical professional may be consulted to develop a strengthening and stretching program that is specific to the patient’s needs.
Additionally, if an exercise or stretch causes an increase in pain while being performed, it should be stopped and the condition further evaluated.