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Effective Exercises to Reduce Neck Pain

  • Dr. Steve Young
  • 27 Mar, 2023

Neck pain is a common problem that affects people of all ages and occupations. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as poor posture, injury, stress, and degenerative changes in the cervical spine. While there are many treatments for neck pain, including medication, physical therapy, and surgery, exercise is one of the most effective ways to relieve pain and prevent future episodes.

In this blog post, we will discuss some effective exercises to reduce neck pain.

Neck stretches

Neck stretches are simple exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime. To perform a neck stretch, start by sitting or standing with good posture. Slowly tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear toward your shoulder. Hold this stretch for 10–15 seconds, then repeat on the other side. You can also perform a forward and backward stretch by nodding your head up and down, bringing your chin towards your chest, and then lifting your head back up. These stretches help to relieve tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders, which can reduce pain and stiffness.

Just a word of caution: You should never roll your neck because it can cause serious injury to the delicate structures of the cervical spine, including the spinal cord, nerves, and vertebrae. Rolling your neck can lead to strains, sprains, and even herniated discs, which can cause chronic pain and mobility issues. Additionally, rolling your neck can restrict blood flow to the brain, which can lead to lightheadedness, dizziness, and even fainting. Instead opt for safe and effective methods of stretching and relieving tension in the neck and shoulders.

Shoulder shrugs
Shoulder shrugs are another easy exercise that can be done to alleviate neck pain. Start by sitting or standing with good posture, and then raise your shoulders towards your ears. Hold this position for 5–10 seconds, then release and relax your shoulders back down. Repeat this exercise 10–15 times, focusing on keeping your shoulders relaxed and avoiding any tension in your neck muscles.

Chin tucks

Chin tucks are a great exercise for strengthening the muscles of the neck and upper back. Start by sitting or standing with good posture, and then slowly bring your chin towards your chest, as if you were making a double chin. Hold this position for 5–10 seconds, then release and repeat 10–15 times. This exercise helps to improve posture, reduce pain and stiffness, and strengthen the muscles that support the neck.

Shoulder blade squeeze
The shoulder blade squeeze is another exercise that can help reduce neck pain by strengthening the upper back muscles. To perform this exercise, start by sitting or standing with good posture, then bring your shoulder blades together as if you were trying to squeeze a pencil between them. Hold this position for 5–10 seconds, then release and repeat 10–15 times. This exercise helps to improve posture, reduce pain and stiffness, and strengthen the muscles that support the neck.
Resistance band exercises
Resistance band exercises can also be effective for reducing neck pain. To perform these exercises, you will need a resistance band, which can be purchased at most fitness stores. Start by sitting or standing with good posture, and then wrap the resistance band around the back of your head, holding the ends of the band in each hand. Slowly pull the band towards your chest, keeping your head and neck in a neutral position. Hold this position for 5–10 seconds, then release and repeat 10–15 times. You can also perform a similar exercise by holding the resistance band with both hands above your head and then slowly pulling it down towards your chest.
Yoga
Yoga is a great way to improve flexibility, strength, and posture, all of which can help reduce neck pain. Some yoga poses, like the downward dog, the cobra, and the seated forward fold, are especially good for the neck. These poses help to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the neck and upper back while also promoting relaxation and stress reduction.

Neck pain can be a debilitating condition that affects many people. Even though there are many treatments, exercise is one of the best ways to relieve pain and stop it from coming back. By doing these exercises every day, you can improve your posture, build muscle strength, and relieve tension in your neck and shoulders. But it's always important to talk to a doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you've had neck pain or an injury in the past. They can help you develop a safe and effective exercise plan that meets your specific needs and goals. With the right approach, you can take control of your neck pain and enjoy a healthier, more active lifestyle.

References:

  • McLean SM, Klaber-Moffett JA, Greenough CG. An updated overview of clinical guidelines for the management of non-specific neck pain in primary care. Phys Ther Rev. 2018;23(1):44-50. doi: 10.1080/10833196.2017.1415904.
  • Gonzalez-Sanchez M, Ruiz-Molinero C, Sánchez-Sánchez ML, Castillo-Lopez JM, Moreno-Lorenzo C. Effectiveness of stretching exercise versus kinesiotaping in improving forward head posture and neck pain: a randomized trial. J Pain Res. 2019;12:2311-2321. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S200760.
  • Blanpied PR, Gross AR, Elliott JM, et al. Neck pain: revision 2017. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017;47(7):A1-A83. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2017.0302.
  • Gupta BD, Aggarwal S, Gupta B, Gupta M, Gupta N, Taneja C. Effect of yoga based neck exercises on neck pain and disability in patients with cervical spondylosis: a randomized controlled study. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2014;27(4):499-507. doi: 10.3233/BMR-140474."Cervical Disc Herniation." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 4 June 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cervical-herniated-disk/symptoms-causes/syc-20370756.
  • "Cervical Strain." MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28 Feb. 2022, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000442.htm.
  • "Why You Shouldn't Crack Your Neck." Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, 13 July 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/why-you-shouldnt-crack-your-neck.
  • "Neck Cracking: Risks and Benefits." Medical News Today, Healthline Media, 18 Feb. 2022, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/neck-cracking#risks.

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