Excellent neck exercises are the secret of getting neck pain relief

What are good neck exercises for a stiff neck?

Neck stretches and neck exercises for pain relief

Neck pain and stiffness happens to everyone, and to some people it happens often.   A good way to reduce the frequency of neck pain, and how badly it hurts, is to begin a daily routine of exercises for neck pain.  Weak neck muscles contribute to a painful neck by allowing slight abnormal movement between spinal bones when the muscle and ligament tone is not adequate, and by restricting good blood and lymphatic fluid circulation into the tissues of the neck.  Neck exercises will reduce pain and increase enjoyment of life.

Benefits of exercise for neck pain

Chronic and frequently recurring cervical pain, accompanied by tight neck muscles and stiff joints, can make the smallest and simplest activity unbearable. Many of these common stiff neck problems can be reversed over time, even if the underlying problem (arthritis, bone spurs, disc degeneration) continues.  Many times in the clinic I have seen patients with a lot of arthritis get neck pain relief – even though their neck arthritis did not change – simply because they started to do neck pain exercises and neck stretches.  I can guarantee the reader that getting the neglected tissue in better shape reduces neck pain and neck stiffness.

Eliminate or reduce many of the common neck complaints with a modest neck exercise program:

Neck stretches

Neck stretching and flexibility exercises will increase or preserve the range of motion and elasticity of the joints of the neck, reducing the neck stiffness that commonly causes pain. As a general rule, neck stretching is best done every day; during an acute flare up of neck and shoulder pain these stretches can be done several times a day.  A person will soon figure out which of the stretches are the important ones to do based on how they feel while they are being done and the neck pain relief that happens afterward.

Neck strengthening

Strengthening neck exercises will not only improve posture, they will reduce or eliminate frequent flare-ups of pain.  For most people strengthening exercises should be done every other day to allow muscle tissue adequate time to repair itself from the rigors of exercise.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise is exercise done hard and fast enough that the rate of breathing is increased.  This kind of exercise increases blood flow to the muscles and soft tissues of the neck and upper back, in turn relaxing the neck muscles and increasing range of motion. Also, endorphins are manufactured by muscle tissue after about 30 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise; they are the body’s painkillers that naturally helps reduce neck pain. Aerobic conditioning for the neck can be done every day, using equipment that does not cause jolting and forceful impact on the neck structure, such as a treadmill, stationary bike, or an elliptical machine.

If starting a neck exercise program during a flare up of an acute or chronic problem, it might be necessary to first bring the pain under control. Slow, gentle and graduated joint motion and easy stretches to increase range of motion in the neck over time will ease the pain of normal activity and make it possible to enter a full exercise program over time.

Neck exercises for neck pain

Here are a few simple and easy exercises that will help alleviate basic neck pain or stiffness. Each of these neck stretches should be done slowly taking care to flex and extend each joint as far as possible so that the neck is comfortably taken through a full range of motion, but only with comfortable and slight force and never so far as to cause pain; always stay within the range of comfort.

1. Chin nod exercise:

  1. Lie face up on a comfortable surface with a thin pillow supporting the head, and knees bent.
  2. Slowly, gently and firmly raise the head up so the chin comes toward the chest.
  3. Stop when the tip of the chin approaches the chest, when the muscles at the front of the neck begin to become firm.
  4. Hold for the count of five.
  5. Repeat 5-10 times per session.

 

2. Head rotation neck exercise:

  1. Lie face up on a comfortable surface with a thin pillow supporting the head, and knees bent.
  2. Slowly, gently and firmly raise the head up slightly, then rotate the head to the left and right as though shaking the head, “no.”
  3. Take the head movement as far to the left and to the right as is comfortable, but always taken as far as possible so that a good feeling of stretching is felt at the end point of movement.
  4. Keep the shoulders flat.
  5. Repeat 15-20 times per session.

 

3. Chin-tuck exercise:

  1. Sit straight up in a firm chair with the upper back straight, shoulders allowed to rest comfortably down and relaxed.
  2. While looking straight ahead with head level, place the tip of your index finger on the tip of your chin and push the finger directly backward.
  3. Allow the pressure of the finger to guide the chin straight backward, so that the chin slides back as the head tips down slightly, and the back of the head raises up slightly.
  4. The total effect will be that you will feel the shoulders will pull back and the neck will flatten slightly, and a comfortable stretching sensation will be felt across the upper back, shoulder and base of the skull into the neck.
  5. Keep the finger tip on the chin to guide the backward movement of the chin and flattening of the upper spine as the base of the skull is stretched upward.
  6. Do not apply more than a few ounces of force with the tip of the finger on the chin.  All neck stretching that occurs will happen because of the great amount of leverage that is available and because you are allowing the muscle stretching to take place.
  7. Hold for the count of five.
  8. Repeat 5-10 times per session.

 

4. Side-bend neck exercise:

  1. Sit straight up in a firm chair with the upper back straight, shoulders allowed to rest comfortably down and relaxed.
  2. Keeping the nose pointed forward and the eyes looking straight ahead, slowly and carefully bring the right ear down to the right shoulder; do not bring the right shoulder up to the right ear. The head should be the only body part moving as the head tips laterally down.  Do not allow the head to rotate; the nose should be pointing straight ahead and not allowed to move toward the shoulder.
  3. Repeat on the opposite side.
  4. Keeping the nose pointed forward and the eyes looking straight ahead, slowly and carefully bring the left ear down to the left shoulder; do not bring the left shoulder up to the left ear. The head should be the only body part moving as the head tips laterally down.  Do not allow the head to rotate; the nose should be pointing straight ahead and not allowed to move toward the shoulder.
  5. When done correctly a comfortable and gentle neck stretching sensation should be felt on the opposite side.
  6. Hold for the count of five.
  7. Repeat 5-10 times per session.

 

5. Extension neck exercise:

  1. Sit straight up in a firm chair with the upper back straight, shoulders allowed to rest comfortably down and relaxed.
  2. Slowly and carefully tilt the head back as far as is comfortable.
  3. Feel the stretch at the front and sides of the neck.
  4. Hold for the count of five.
  5. Repeat 5-10 times per session.

 

6.  Rotated neck exercise:

  1. Sit straight up in a firm chair with the upper back straight, shoulders allowed to rest comfortably down and remain relaxed.
  2. Do not force any movement and stop if you feel pain or lightheaded.
  3. Look straight ahead
  4. Inhale slowly and smoothly through the nose. Exhale through your nose, and start to slowly turn the head to the right as far as you comfortably can, or until you are looking over your right shoulder.
  5. Inhale again and gently through the nose, turn the head back to the starting position facing forward.
  6. While looking straight ahead, exhale through your nose, and start to slowly turn the head to the left as far as you comfortably can, or until you are looking over your left shoulder.
  7. Hold the position for the count of five.
  8. Continue slowly breathing and rotating the head to the right and left.
  9.  Hold the position for the count of five.
  10. Breathe in as you return to the front.  Breathe out as you turn to each side.
  11. Try to stretch your neck a little further each time this neck exercise is done.
  12. Do 5-10 neck rotation cycles per session.

 

7.  Corner stretch exercise:

  1. Stand facing into the corner of a room with open walls on both sides, approximately two feet from the corner.
  2. Feet should be together
  3. Place the right forearm on the wall to the right and place the left forearm on the wall to the left, with elbows slightly below shoulder height
  4. Learn forward or into the corner as far as possible without causing discomfort, so mild and comfortable stretching is felt in the front of the shoulders and chest
  5. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds
  6. Repeat 5-10 times per session.

 

8.  Upper shoulder and neck stretch exercise:

  1. Stand in an open doorway.
  2. Rest the end of the right elbow on the door jam or frame, a little above shoulder height.
  3. Turn the head toward the left or away from the side you are stretching on the right shoulder and neck.
  4. While continuing to look in the opposite direction, place the finger of the of the left hand on top of the head and gently pull the head forward slightly; this will increase the neck and shoulder stretch.
  5. Slowly and carefully tilt the head back as far as is comfortable.
  6. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds
  7. Repeat with the opposite side.

 

Find the cause of neck pain

There are many possible reasons why a neck would become sore and stiff in the first place. The best possible solution for neck stiffness starts with knowing the fundamental cause of the problem so that its elimination or correction directly solves the problem, rather than merely mask symptoms. Common causes of neck pain are:

  • Accumulation of recent or chronic neck strains and sprains
  • Osteoarthritis (wear-and-tear arthritis)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Nerve compression from spinal misalignment or disc disease
  • Sleeping in an awkward  or unusual position
  • Sport or work injuries
  • Chronic bad posture while standing, sitting, working
  • Effect of continued physical or emotional stress leading to tense neck muscles

Once the underlying cause or at least a fundamental explanation for the pain is determined, for example osteoarthritis, then a plan can be created to reduce the frequency and intensity of neck pain that is experienced.

There are three basic principles for treatment of a painful skeletal condition.  The first is to increase muscle strength of all muscles that pass through the area of chief complaint.  The second is to increase the range of motion of all joints that are in the area of pain.  The third principle is to increase the blood and lymphatic fluid circulation throughout the area of complaint.  All three goals can be accomplished for reducing neck pain by the following exercises at least three times a week and perhaps daily during the acute stage when the problem is worst.

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