If your neck is stiff or sore, you have lots of company. Neck pain is one of the most common types of pain among Americans. But as with any other part of your body, exercises and stretches can make the muscles in your neck stronger and more limber. Try these moves to loosen a tense neck, banish pain, and gain flexibility.
Bonus: A strong neck can help prevent problems with your shoulders, upper back, and arms, too.
If you already have pain in your neck or elsewhere, talk to your doctor before you start. You will feel some tension in your neck muscles when you stretch. But you shouldn’t have pain. If you do, stop right away.
Forward and Backward Tilt
This can be done while you're seated or on your feet. Keep your moves slow and smooth.
- Start with your head squarely over your shoulders and your back straight.
- Lower your chin toward your chest and hold for 15-30 seconds. Relax, and slowly lift your head back up.
- Tilt your chin up toward the ceiling and bring the base of your skull toward your back. Hold for 10 seconds, then return to the start position.
- Repeat the set several times. Do it every day.
Do this while standing, with your feet hip-width apart and arms down by your sides.
- Gently tilt your head toward your right shoulder and try to touch it with your ear. Stop when you feel the stretch. Don't raise your shoulder.
- Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds, then return to the start position.
- Repeat on your left side. You can do several sets and work your way up to 10 repetitions.
- For extra stretch, put the hand on the same side of your tilted head on top of your head, and press lightly with your fingertips.
You can do this while seated or standing.
- Keep your head squarely over your shoulders and your back straight.
- Slowly turn your head to the right until you feel a stretch in the side of your neck and shoulder.
- Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, and then slowly turn your head forward again.
- Repeat on your left side. Do up to 10 sets.
This is best done standing up.
- Raise your shoulders straight up and move them in a circle going forward. Do it 6 times.
- Return to the start position, and make another 6 circles, this time going backward.