Exercising and stretching is a great way to stay in shape, but occasionally some of the most important areas of the body are overlooked. Your neck is a vital area and contains a number of muscles that could benefit from regular exercise.
Neck exercises are simple and quick to do, and can relieve neck and shoulder pain brought about by bad posture, inactivity, or simply sleeping funny the night before. All of these stretches and exercises can be done at your desk, while stopped at a red light, at home, on a plane, or pretty much anywhere since they don’t require any equipment or too much time.
All of these exercises should be painless. If you experience any pain or discomfort beyond a normal stretching feeling, stop immediately. If you believe you may have a neck injury, see a doctor or medical professional as soon as possible.
Start by looking straight ahead with your shoulders relaxed and back straight. Slowly look down and drop your chin to your chest. Hold that position for a moment, then slowly and smoothly tilt your head backward until you can look up. Stay in that pose for a moment before lifting your head back to its initial position. Repeat as needed.
This loosens the muscles running along the front and back of your neck, including the trapezius, levator scapula, and splenius cervicis muscles, which run from the cranium, down the neck, and into the back.
With your shoulders relaxed and back straight, look forward, then turn your head slowly to one side, pause, slowly turn it to the other side, pause, and then slowly look forward again. Turn your head until you feel a stretch in the opposite side of your neck, but stop before it’s painful. Repeat as necessary.
This movement stretches the trapezius muscle on the side opposite from the direction you look, and the sternocleidomastoid muscle on the same side as the direction you look.
Beginning with your shoulders down, back straight, and looking directly ahead, tilt your head toward one side without turning it, as if you want to touch your ear to your shoulder, and then tilt it all the way over to the other side before returning to the starting pose. Keep your movements slow and smooth, don’t bring your shoulder up to your ear, and stop if you feel any pain. Repeat as necessary.
This exercise can be felt by most of the muscles running along the side of the neck, including the scalene (or anterior, middle, and posterior) muscles, along with the trapezius and levator scapula muscles.
Add resistance to the Nod and the Tilt by placing your hands on the sides and back of your head, as well as your forehead, and then pressing your head against them. Do not allow your hands to move, and do not exert a painful amount of force against your head. Repeat as needed.
This strengthens the neck muscles rather than stretching them.
This exercise looks silly, but stretches many of the neck muscles in new ways. With your back straight and shoulders relaxed, move your head horizontally backward as you tuck your chin in before relaxing back to the initial position. Imagine you have a string attached to the nape of your neck that’s being gently pulled on. Repeat.
The Levator Scapula
Though many of the above exercises can stretch or strengthen the levator scapula, this particular muscle is particularly prone to becoming tense and tender where it connects to the shoulder blade and can cause a great deal of neck pain.
While standing or sitting near a wall, raise your elbow above your shoulder, but no higher than is comfortable, and rest it against the wall to lengthen the levator scapula. Then turn your head away from your upraised arm and look downward, using your other hand to press against the back of your head to intensify the stretch. Hold this position for up to a minute, then repeat on the other side.
This article was written by Sheldon Armstrong, a regular contributor at INFOtainment News, and Travis Guerrero, a health and nutrition expert who looks forward to sharing his knowledge so you can live a better life. He writes this on behalf of Gulf Coast Spine Care, your number one choice when looking for neck and spine pain treatments in Texas.