There’s almost nothing worse than neck stiffness. You may think you know all the right exercises for a stiff neck, but neck aches can be tough to relieve. Neck tension, poor posture, or a sore neck muscle can all be cause for dismay.
But once you learn how to properly stretch your neck muscles and target certain areas like your levator scapula or shoulder blade, you’ll be ready to reduce muscle tension the next time you experience neck strain.
It is important to do regular exercise for a stiff neck. Learn some quick and simple exercises to help relieve severe neck stiffness, ache, and muscle strain.
Why Do You Get A Stiff Neck And How To Get Relief From Neck Stiffness Easily?
The neck is somewhat mysterious to a lot of people. How many muscles does your neck contain? Where are the bones? For some reason, people just don’t think much about their neck — until there is some discomfort.
The bones and muscles along with the ligaments and tendons in your neck combine forces to keep your head supported. They also work in concert to allow you to move your head. You may or may not know this, but your neck is part of a long moveable column that is connected throughout most of your body… the spinal column. It’s also sometimes referred to as your backbone.1
The part of your spinal column that houses your neck is known as your cervical spine. There are seven different bones in your cervical spine. They are identified as bones C1 — C7.
In between each cervical bone is an intervertebral disc. These discs cushion the bone and help allow your head to move right, left, up, and down. When you overuse a muscle or compromise the bone in your neck, it can become sore or stiff. This may be when you feel a neck ache. 2
Now, you shouldn’t get too alarmed if you have a stiff neck or neck ache. There are a few easy stretches and ways to remedy the discomfort — and you can do these at home.
Of course, if your neck remains stiff and you’re unable to move your head you’ll want to check in with your healthcare professional. In some very rare instances, a stiff neck can signal a greater health issue.
Neck Exercises And Stretching Can Help Improve Your Poor Posture And Neck Strain
Luckily, stiff necks can often be taken care of from the comfort of your own home. You just have to learn how to stretch in the right way. And you can do most of these stretches whether or not you’re seated, standing, or even lying down.
If you’re feeling strained on a train, bus, plane, or in your car, you should still be able to do any one of these stretches with ease — and without interfering in someone else’s personal space. When done correctly, these neck stretches can alleviate some of the tension and annoyance of a stiff neck or neck ache.
The first stretch to consider is meant to relieve the pressure people often put on their cervical spine. It’s called a cervical spine extension and it is very simple.
There are occasions in which repeating this stretch a few times can relieve discomfort pretty immediately. Here, you’ll lengthen the muscles in your neck and momentarily relieve the pressure that’s always pressing down on your cervical spine. This stretch will also help to release the muscles of your levator scapula. That’s the skeletal muscle on the sides and back of your neck.
How To Do The Neck Stretch? The Correct Shoulder Posture And Neck Rotation Is Important
Start by simply sitting, standing, or lying on the floor. Stretch your arms down by your side. Make sure to roll back your shoulders and then press them down, no matter which position you choose to do the stretch from.
Then, tuck your chin into your chest. Next, extend your head back ever-so-slightly while lifting your chin up towards the sky. Remember, you want your arms at your side and your shoulders elongated downward (away from your ears).
Finally, make sure to hang out in that position for about 20 seconds. Rest for half of a minute and then repeat the stretch again. Do this three or four different times until you start to feel relief. The more you do this stretch, the more mindful you’ll likely become about your poor posture. As a result, you might sit up a little bit straighter at your desk or avoid hunching when you sit.
If you find yourself trapped in a habit of poor posture, just stop each time you realize you’re hunching or slouching. Stop. Breath. Do your stretch. When you finish, try to be mindful of sitting upright.
What Other Neck Stretches Can Ease Muscle Strain Or Neck Aches?
There are other good stretches that can help you relieve muscle strain and relax a neck ache.
Start similarly with your next stretch. Sit, stand, or lie down with your back on the floor and both arms by your side. Again, roll your shoulders back. Then press them down (away from your ears).
Slowly, elongate your neck. Imagine there’s a string coming out of the top of your head. Now, move your head up along that string. When you feel you’ve lifted your head, tip it so your right ear moves toward your right shoulder. For a little extra pressure, you can place your hand on top of your head to gently urge your ear to reach a little lower.
Hold this stretch for just about 20 seconds or so. Then release and rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this movement on the other side. You can try this stretch twice (on each side) every day.
Trapezius Stretches Can Help Relieve Neck Aches And Muscle Tension
Now, your trapezius muscle isn’t in your neck, but stretching it can often help relieve neck discomfort. Why? Because the trapezius muscle is basically one of the big muscles in your upper back.
It looks like a giant triangle and it connects from your occipital bone (in the skull) to your thoracic spine — the part of the spine in your upper back. The muscle stretches from shoulder to shoulder and extends to your middle back (consider that spot the point of the triangle like a downward facing arrow). 3
The trapezius is made up of 3 pieces and each section helps facilitate the movement of your shoulders, neck, and head. If you experience any soreness related to this muscle, here’s a stretch that can help alleviate the stress.
Once more, roll your shoulders back and down. Tip your head to the side — right ear to right shoulder (again). Take your left wrist in your right hand and gently pull on it. The arm wrapped over your head will tug your head ever-so-slightly. You’ll feel this stretch throughout the side of your neck, but you’ll also be stretching your trapezius.
Make sure you hold the stretch for 20 seconds and release and rest for 30 seconds.
Stretching Your Neck To Relieve Stiffness
Remember, when your neck is sore, you can always try to relieve the tension on your own in the comfort of your home. If you’re doing the stretch correctly, you should feel a release of tension and notice some level of improvement in your ability to move your head.
Be gentle with yourself. Don’t push too hard. And if you experience further stiffness or another ache, consult your doctor, physical therapist, or a healthcare professional. Happy stretching.