5 Stiff Neck Exercises To Relieve Pain

By Tiffany Tseng. May 7th 2016

If you ever had those days where your neck feels unnaturally stiff or in pain, you are at the right place. Here are some exercises and tips on possible alleviation for your problematic neck. Be sure to always get your neck checked out by a physician if it does not get better or becomes worse.

Identify The Cause Of Pain Or Stiffness

There are many reasons for a stiff neck, and you should always try your best to identify the cause of discomfort before attempting any remedies or exercise. There are many causes for neck pain, and they all have different alleviation tips. Some common causes include:

  • Wear-and-tear arthritis
  • Hunched over the computer for way too long
  • Sleeping on a wrong angle (torticollis)
  • Whiplash
  • Muscle strains
  • Nerve compression
  • Worn joints

Stiff Neck Exercises

Here are a few common stretching exercises that can alleviate basic neck pain or stiffness. These are meant to help relax the neck muscles and should all be carried out slowly and gently, without any force.

1. Chin nod exercise:

  1. Lie down with a pillow under the head and knees bent.
  2. Gently and slowly, in a smooth motion, nod your head towards your chest until you feel the muscles harden.
  3. Hold for a few seconds, then relax.
  4. Repeat as needed.

2. Head rotation exercise:

  1. Lie down with a pillow under your head and knees bent.
  2. Slowly and gently, turn your head from one side to the other, from left to right as if you are shaking your head to say “no”.
  3. Be sure to keep your body and shoulders flat on the bed.
  4. Repeat as needed.

3. Retraction and protraction exercise:

  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight, shoulders down and relaxed.
  2. Gently and slowly, while keeping your gaze level, retract and protract your head horizontally (think chicken heads when the animal is walking, but smoother and slower, at your own pace).
  3. Keep the rest of your body still during the exercise.
  4. Repeat as needed.

4. Side bend neck exercise:

  1. Sit in a chair or stand with your back straight, shoulders down and relaxed.
  2. Gently and slowly tilt your head from side to side, facing forward the entire time.
  3. Take the time to feel the stretch of your neck muscles.
  4. Repeat as needed.

5. Extension exercise:

  1. Sit in a chair or stand with your back straight, shoulders down and relaxed.
  2. Similar to the chin nod exercise, slowly nod your head forward as if your chin will touch your chest. It is ok if it doesn’t.
  3. Then, tilt your head back as far as it is comfortable.
  4. Repeat as needed.
  5. During this exercise, be sure to feel the stretch of the neck and muscles.

It is important to take note of how your neck feels the entire time. If the pain worsens during or after the exercises, be sure to seek medical care immediately.

Other Tips For A Painful Or Stiff Neck

  • Hot compress or warm cloth. Sometimes, a stiff and sore neck is the result of strained muscles. A warm compress on the spot will help. Be sure not to burn yourself, and lie down for maximum relaxation.
  • Massage. Sometimes, a warm touch can alleviate that pain in the neck. Small, controlled pressure of the fingertips zoomed in at the problematic site may help soothe the pain. However be sure to stop immediately if the pain worsens to prevent further complications.
  • Pain relievers. Many over the counter pain killers can alleviate temporary neck discomfort. Be sure to take the pills as directed on the label and do not abuse.
  • Rest. Rest is essential to heal any pains and discomforts the body may have. However, if the neck pain persists after a restorative rest, it is time to see the doctor to see if the pain is an indication of something more serious.

When To Seek Medical Care

If the neck pain is a result of other body situations, or is accompanied by other symptoms, it is best to get a medical opinion to rule out other problems that can be life threatening. Be sure to seek a doctor if neck pain is accompanied by:

  • Shooting pain down the shoulder and arms (not limited to the neck)
  • Numbness, weakness, or loss or sensation in the arms or hands
  • Changes in bladder or bowel movements
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Neck pain is due to a recent injury
  • If you are unable to touch your chin to your chest

Hopefully, these neck exercises and tips can help alleviate that pain in your neck. And remember, it is always recommended to visit your physician if your neck pain persists or becomes worse.


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