Pain in the Neck – Some Easy Exercises to Fix That
By Liza Kovacs, M.S.C, M.A., Fitness Contributor
Do you feel a strain in the back of your neck after too many hours of the computer? Do you find yourself massaging your shoulders in the hopes of finding relief? If you regularly have pain in the back of your neck this post might be for you.
Our cervical spine (the segment of our vertebral column that makes up our neck) is the most mobile part. It also holds a heavy appendage, our head, which generally weighs around 10 lbs (or 4.5 to 5 kilos). Simplistically, your posterior (back) and front (anterior) neck muscles work together to maintain your head erect. Sometimes these muscles become imbalanced because of habits, such as forward head posture for example, as we extend our head forward for long periods of time to read our computer screen. In this position we strain the back muscles of our neck responsible to hold our head up while the front muscles simultaneously stop contributing to the action. The balance is thrown off and this is when we begin to experience discomfort.
Here is a video with 2 simple exercises that target that area, one to strengthen the front of your neck muscles, one to stretch and help release the back neck muscles. I recommend doing 4 of each. You can do these exercises anywhere and I suggest you do them as soon as you feel pain or discomfort creeping up. For those if you with a busy life, these exercises might be more practicable.
And, for your convenience, here are the written instructions for these simple exercises to strengthen your neck as well as some stretches to provide you with relief when neck pain occurs:
- Anterior Neck Strengthening Exercise: place your fingertips on your forehead. Gently press your forehead into your fingers and hold that pressure for an exhale. If you put your other hand on your throat you will feel those front muscles engaging. It is a good sign! Repeat three times, making sure that the back of the neck is not participating in the action.
- The Double Chin Stretch! Look straight ahead and without dropping your chin down reach your ears back in space, giving yourself a double chin (you heard me right!). Again hold it for an exhale.
- Neck Stretches:
- Drop your ear to your shoulders. Gently place your hand on the top ear for a greater stretch of your shoulders. You can hold this for three long breaths or longer. Repeat to other side.
- Turn your head 45°diagonally to one side. Drop your chin down. Place your hand on the crown of the head so your elbow points in the same direction as your nose. Hold this for three breaths as well.
Make sure you are gentle with your stretches. Breathe into them and visualize your muscles releasing and giving way with each exhale, stretching for three breaths in and out.
Remember to do these simple exercises, especially #1 and #2, when you first start feeling the discomfort. Such simple tips can make a big difference in your everyday wellbeing.
See what exercises Liza recommends to keep arm toned and to alleviate back pain when standing all day at a standing desk. And, stay tuned for her upcoming tips & tricks to fix our “growing old” ouches.