Simple Actions to Relieve Neck Tension and Pain

Neck pain and tension are often related to your day-to-day posture. For example, working in front of a computer for your job can cause or even cause a problem called kyphosis (rounded upper back) and the associated forward head posture. If so, you probably crane your neck forward so you can see your computer while you’re working, the road while you’re driving, and so on.

Believe it or not, working on recovery—both from the two postural issues mentioned above and any pain or discomfort these may cause—will be good for you in other ways too. It can help you become more aware of your body alignment, which can help you prevent future problems. It can contribute to the success of the gym. This is because establishing good posture (i.e. body positioning and body alignment) is a known success factor in participating in sports, fitness and dance activities.

Here, we’ll give you a few ways to use positioning and easy movement to relieve neck pain. Most movements may help lengthen the neck and balance the relationship of the head and neck with the rest of the spine—in other words, improve the alignment of the neck and shoulders. Lengthening is helpful when you need decompression, which is creating space between the intervertebral joints in the neck.

Neck Relief Moves While Sitting

If you’re like most people, you sit for a long time every day. In this technological 21st century, it simply cannot help. Even so, this reality leads to overstretching, weakness and fatigue of a large number of back muscles, as well as overtightening of the front muscles. Here’s a quick move you can do to help balance the equation and create more symmetry between the front and rear torso muscles.

Work your back muscles at your desk

Put your hands on your thighs above your knees. Inhale, then exhale and push down through your hands. This will encourage your upper torso and chest to lift up. It will also work your back muscles. If you sit a lot or for a long time, contractions may feel very good.

Now that you’ve learned this move, let’s practice it for good posture and body awareness. This time, let your lower back move forward and your head and neck back as you press down on your arms. (The standing exercises below may further help you develop the ability to move your head and neck back to maintain good alignment.)

Standing neck relief

For a more “formal” workout, try neck (meaning neck) contractions (meaning bring back) while standing.

Please note: Cervical retraction is not suitable for everyone. If you have been diagnosed with a flat or inverted neck curve (commonly known in the medical world as cervical kyphosis) or disc disease, you should consult with your healthcare provider or physical therapist before attempting this exercise.

There are two versions of this. The first doesn’t require you to be near the wall; the second does.

Necked Standing – No Walls

Stand with good posture. This means your feet are directly under your hips – about 1 foot wide apart. Your knees should be straight, but not locked (locking can increase wear and tear on your joints.) Keep your eyes and head level (in other words, neither up nor down) Bring your chin slightly toward you Fold down, then push it as far as possible.

To protect your neck, it is crucial to do this movement gently. Also, stop as soon as you feel any tension in your shoulders or in the front of your neck or throat. If it helps, you can place one hand on your chin and press back to help guide the movement.

Hold in retracted position for 10-15 seconds. During this time, be sure to breathe and continue to relax your neck and shoulder muscles. Excessive tension can align your body and change the way you use your muscles, resulting in or long-lasting muscle imbalances; this can make your neck discomfort worse.

Cervical retraction on the wall

You can also try pulling the cervical spine against a wall. I like this version because the walls provide good neck guidance for head alignment. You can also hold this position longer – up to 60 seconds.

Like the wall-free version above, this exercise isn’t for everyone. If you have disc problems with your neck or flat neck posture, ask your healthcare provider or physical therapist if you should do this.

Stand with your feet approximately 1 foot from the baseboard of the wall. Pull your chin up and pull your head back toward the wall. Move it very gently so it doesn’t bang if or when your head does hit the wall. (No head injury required here.)

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Stay there with the back of the skull against the wall for up to 1 minute. Your neck will flatten out a bit; this is the lengthening we talked about earlier in the article.

In most cases, neck lengthening will feel relaxing, but if not, either reduce the distance the head moves back or stop the exercise entirely. You may wish to have symptoms/pain associated with trying this exercise run by your healthcare provider.

Lie on your back with a towel under your head

If you have neck, shoulder and/or upper back pain and you have time to stay home, you can try this supine repositioning experience. (Supine refers to the posture of lying on your back.) For this, you will need a small to medium folded towel.

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a folded towel under your head and neck. Position it in a comfortable position with your head level with your spine. In other words, don’t put your head in front of or behind your spine — this can kink your neck muscles and prevent them from relaxing and releasing.

Once you’re positioned, stay there for a few minutes. Just breathe and let go.

Next, pull the far end of the towel away from you, giving your neck a little traction. It should just feel good. If anything hurts, don’t make this adjustment. (And talk to your healthcare provider.)

As before, hold the pose for a minute or two to breathe, relax and let go.

Towel Exercise Challenge 1

You can add some upper body exercises and stretches — as long as you don’t have neck, shoulder, and/or upper back injuries, ie. (If you do, please consult with your healthcare provider and/or physical therapist on the best exercise and posture for you based on your situation.)

If your shoulders are flexible enough, while still in this position, raise your arms back over your head (eventually resting on the floor). If not, place a folded blanket and/or pillow in the area so your arms have a place to reach as far as you can comfortably handle.

Again, stay there for a moment to breathe and relax. You may find some tension that desperately needs to be released! If that’s the case, go easy on it. You don’t have to stay in that location for long. You can try again tomorrow. Over time, the strength and range of motion of your shoulders may improve, and the position will become more comfortable.

Towel Sports Challenge 2

This challenge uses socks to release tension at the base of the skull. For this challenge, you will need 2 tennis balls and a light sock.

Another thing to do when lying on your back is two tennis balls in your socks. One end of the sock should be tied so that the ball touches instead of moving around. Place the sock with the ball on the floor, at the base of the skull. This is the area of ​​the back of the head toward the base where the skull protrudes. (Just below this area is your neck.)

Then, take a few minutes (up to 10) to breathe and relax the weight of your head onto the sock. If there is pain, you can shorten the time you spend in this position. Otherwise, you might also consider turning on some light music.

Advanced Adjustments for Challenge 2

The sock ball is placed in an area of ​​your skull called the occipital condyle. (You don’t have to memorize the term to use this technique successfully, though.)

The condyles provide attachments to muscles called the suboccipital muscles. The suboccipital muscles consist of the rectus capitis posterior and rectus microcapitalis and the inferior and superior oblique muscles. These muscles play a role in turning and/or tilting the head to the side of the contracting muscles and in extending the head back.

If your pain level in the socks allows, you can gently roll over them. The suboccipital muscles discussed above often have tightness, spasms, and/or trigger points that can cause pain and negatively affect your posture. Many people find that using sock balls is a very effective way to deal with these kinks and tensions.