10 Most Effective Exercises to Relieve Neck Pain

Spending long hours at your desk, staring at your phone, or carrying a heavy bag can contribute to neck pain. In most cases, these factors are overlooked, as a result of which the pain can worsen and radiate across the body. 

How do stretching and strengthening exercises help neck pain?

Research shows that stretching exercises have proven to improve the range of motion, flexibility, and circulation, strengthen joints and muscles, and reduce the risk of future injuries. Being consistent with these neck exercises is essential as avoiding the same can tighten and shorten muscles. The critical areas to focus on with stretching exercises include the lower extremities (calves, hamstrings, hip flexors). In addition, stretches for your shoulders, neck, and lower back are also beneficial. Further, these neck exercises are effective only if they are practiced at least three or four times per week.

Similarly, strengthening exercises focus on improving power and endurance. The neck pain exercises involve using your body weight or some resistance to activate specific muscle groups. In addition to this, strengthening activities slow down the rate of bone and muscle loss associated with aging.

Eliminate Neck Pain with These 10 Easy Exercises

As mentioned earlier, stretching and strengthening exercises for the neck can help reduce pain, tension, and stiffness. However, it is important to avoid overstraining the muscles as you practice these neck pain exercises, as this will only add to the present discomfort. 

Side-to-side bends

The Side-to-Side bends or lateral neck flexion involves slowly bending your head to the right and bringing your ear toward your shoulder. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. You can feel the stretch along the left side of your neck. After returning to a neutral position, you can repeat the same stretch on your left side.  

Forward and backward bends

Forward and backward bends, also known as neck flexion and extension, involve lowering your chin toward the chest (flexion). It is important to hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Once you return to a neutral position, bend your head backward and bring your chin toward the ceiling (extension). While you hold this stretch for 5 to 10 seconds, you can feel the muscles stretch in the front of your neck. 

Shoulder rolls

A shoulder roll involves shrugging your shoulders up toward your ears as you squeeze the shoulder blades and move them back. After moving your shoulders down as far as they can go, shift them forward while returning to a neutral position. Our experts recommend repeating this neck pain exercise 10 to 15 times to loosen and relax your neck and shoulder muscles. 

Levator scapulae stretch

The levator scapulae stretch involves placing your right hand behind your head to turn it to a 45-degree angle (to the right). While gently pulling your head down toward the right armpit, you will feel a stretch along the left side of your neck. After holding this position for 15 to 20 seconds, repeat the same on the opposite side. 

Upper trapezius stretch

The upper trapezius stretch, also known as the head tilt, involves sitting or standing with your back erect while placing your right hand on your waist. Now, place the left hand on top of the head and gently apply pressure. While you apply pressure, slowly move your head toward the shoulder. As you hold this position for 30 to 45 seconds, you will feel a stretch from the base of your head, through the neck, and across the upper trapezius. 

Head lifts

Lie down on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat, and keep your arms at your side. While in this position, slowly lift your head and move your chin toward the chest. As you raise your head, pause at the top before you return to the starting position. It is important to keep your shoulders on the floor as you perform this neck pain exercise. Our experts recommend repeating this stretch at least 10 to 15 times. 

Doorway stretch for the neck

The pectoral stretch done in a doorway involves standing in front of an open door frame. As you place your hands and forearms on either side of the doorway at shoulder level, lean forward and feel the stretch along the chest and in front of your shoulders. Most importantly, hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. 

Chest expansion stretch

In addition to the stretches mentioned above, alternate physiotherapy exercises for neck pain include chest exercises like the chest stretch with hands behind the head and chest stretch with arms behind the back. The former involves raising the arms and placing them behind your head while bringing your elbows back as far as they can go. The latter involves reaching behind the back with both hands and trying to hold each elbow or forearm. Keep the spine straight as you perform these neck exercises and squeeze the shoulder blades. 

Shoulder blade squeeze

As you sit on an armless chair or stool, maintain a good posture and pull your shoulder blades together. It is important to hold this stretch for 5 to 10 seconds and then relax. Our experts recommend performing this neck exercise for neck pain at least 3 to 5 times, twice daily. 

Shoulder blade pinch

The shoulder blade pinch exercise for neck pain is used to target the muscles in the upper back, including the rhomboids and trapezius, to help alleviate neck pain. The exercise involves pinching the shoulder blades together and holding for a few seconds, then releasing. This can be done while standing or sitting and can be repeated several times for multiple sets. It is an easy-to-perform exercise and can be done as a part of physical therapy for neck pain and to improve posture.

Get the Most Out of Neck Pain Exercises With Physiotattva

Being consistent with these neck pain exercises and understanding your limits to avoid future injuries is essential. Our experts at Physiotattva strive to deliver comprehensive treatment plans that use specific neck pain exercises based on the nature and severity of your neck pain. In addition to these stretches, massages, heat and cold therapy, hydrotherapy, chiropractic care, and acupuncture are also provided. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can exercise really help with neck pain?

Various physiotherapy neck exercises can effectively reduce neck pain, improve strength and stability, and avoid future injuries. Performing these physiotherapy neck pain exercises based on expert advice is essential as it helps prevent additional strain. 

What type of exercise is best for neck pain relief?

Several neck pain exercises are effective in reducing neck pain. Some common ones include shoulder blade squeeze, chest expansion stretch, doorway stretch, head lifts, etc. These stretches aim to reduce stiffness and tension in the chest, shoulders, and neck. 

Are there any exercises to avoid if I have neck pain?

Our experts recommend avoiding sit-ups, pushups, and crunches if you are already struggling with neck pain. The reasoning behind this is that such neck exercises add excessive pressure on the neck and spine, leading to more pain.