As one of the leading causes of disability in our country, neck pain ranks high among the reasons people seek chiropractic care. This is likely due to the poor posture we often assume while sitting at desks or from “tech neck,” a condition associated with frequent use of smart devices. Other issues such as awkward sleeping positions, sudden movements, and heavy objects carried in an unbalanced way can leave us with discomfort that limits movement and makes everyday tasks more difficult.
The good news is that it’s possible to reduce — and perhaps even prevent — neck pain with at-home treatments and exercises designed to improve neck and mid-back mobility, strength, and stability. Whether done alone or in conjunction with chiropractic care, these actionable steps can move you closer to more optimal neck health.
To make mobility exercises easier to move through, it’s important to first do what you can to ease acute pain. Ice packs, heating pads, or a combination of both on rotation, can often bring relief and relaxation to stressed muscles, as can massage and recovery tools if you have them. In addition, rest may be necessary before beginning a rehab program for neck pain.
While it’s natural for these exercises to be a little uncomfortable when the muscles and tendons are overly tight or inflamed, you should never feel like you’re aggravating or worsening the pain.
Open the Book/Thread the Needle
Beginning in a tabletop position on your hands and knees with a neutral spine, lift your right hand from ground and reach it up toward the sky allowing your gaze to follow. Press your left hand firmly into the floor or mat, open up your chest, and keep your hips as square as possible for a gentle spinal twist that reaches from the neck to the mid-back area. Hold this open-book position for a count of 10.
To thread the needle, gently bring your right arm down and under your torso, threading it through toward the left side of your body.
Depending on your level of flexibility, your right shoulder may be able to rest on the ground during this stretch. Level up by extending your left arm straight out in front of you. Hold the position for a count of 10. Repeat several times and then again on the other side.
Seated Neck Stretch
In your favorite seated position, sit up tall with your shoulders down and your arms forming a triangle or tent at your sides. Begin by reaching your right ear toward your right shoulder and holding it there. Amp up the stretch by flexing your opposite (left) hand with fingers toward the sky. Hold for 10 counts.
Unflex the hand and rotate your chin down toward your chest. Apply a small amount of pressure with both hands to the back top of your head (but not directly to the neck.) Hold for several seconds before lifting your head back to a neutral gaze.
Repeat on the other side with your left ear toward you left shoulder, arms out and opposite (right) hand stretched. Cycle through several times.
Your head is quite heavy and can be utilized to strengthen your neck muscles for better support of.
On your side:
Lay on your left side in a semi-fetal position with your back straight and your knees pulled in toward your chest. Reach your bottom left arm toward your left knee or thigh cross the right hand over your chest and rest it on your left shoulder. Your head should be on the ground.
In slow movements, gently lift your head from the ground toward your right shoulder while keeping hour left shoulder firmly in place. Aim to keep the movement all in your neck instead of your shoulder or torso. Complete 10 head lifts and then repeat on the other side.
On your back:
Laying on your back, place a small exercise ball, yoga block, or pillow under your head. Keeping your arms by your side, tuck your chin toward your chest slowly lift your head from the ball, block, or pillow, and hold it unsupported for 10 seconds before returning it to resting. Keep your chin tucked to utilize all the neck and upper cervical muscles during this strengthening exercise. Complete as many lifts as are comfortable.
To level up this exercise, after lifting your head from the floor, ball, block, or pillow, rotate your head to one side while keeping the chin tucked. Rotate to the other side, back to the center, and then back to rest.
This exercise can also be done without equipment with your head beginning on the floor if that is more available to you. In this case, avoid lifting/flexing the head so high that you lose your working zone. Doing so will make the exercise too easy to provide benefits.
On your front:
Lay with your front side down on the floor or a mat with your arms and legs slightly extended and open in an X position.
Keeping your chin tucked into your chest, lift your head and upper chest from the ground and hold for a few seconds. Keeping the upper chest lifted, now lift your arms and elbows off the ground Superman style, and hold. Slowly return arms only to the ground, followed by the head/chin. There should be four distinct movements through this exercise.
This strengthening work is aimed at the neck and mid back, so the rib cage should never leave the ground. Your core should remain tight to prevent engaging the lower back.
When At-Home Work is Not Enough
Chiropractic care can provide dramatic relief for both short-term and chronic neck pain and stiffness. The following situations suggest more intense neck pain for which professional chiropractic help might be needed:
- working through the above neck stretch and strengthening exercises remains too painful
- pain persists or worsens after several days or is worst in the morning and gradually gets better throughout the day
- pain can be traced to a car accident, fall or other traumatic event
- begins to radiate numbness, tingling or pain from the neck to other parts of the body, such as down the arms
- you are unable to get through your days without regular doses of OTC pain relievers
The chiropractic team at Whole Body Health offers thorough patient analyses and individualized pre-hab and rehab programs to prevent and treat neck pain. At Whole Body Healthy we regularly utilize multiple modalities including chiropractic adjustments, deep tissue massage and red laser therapy, among others, that can have a significant effect on pain reduction and assist with a faster, more complete healing process.
If you suffer for frequent or chronic neck pain, contact Whole Body Health today.
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