“Approximately 80% of people experience neck pain during their lifetime, and 20% to 50% deal with it annually,” Harvard Medical School writes. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 20% of people all across the globe suffer from neck tightness or pain at any given moment. An awkward sleeping position, straining your neck to look at your phone, overuse, or improper form during exercise can all result in neck tightness and pain. It’s critical to learn the best stretches for neck tightness and neck pain relief.
Ease tension and get some much-needed relief with some of the best stretches for neck tightness. Check out the video below.
UPPER TRAP STRETCH
- Stand or sit up tall with good posture.
- Position one hand in your lap
- Use the other hand to gently grab your head.
- With control, slowly pull your head out toward your shoulder opposite the hand in your lap. Apply pressure until you feel a gentle stretch in your neck.
- Hold this stretch for up to 30 seconds.
- Repeat on both sides.
The upper trap stretch targets the trapezius and scalene muscles in the neck. What exactly do these muscles do? Your trap muscles are “responsible for shrugging and upwardly rotating your shoulder blade, stabilizing your arm, and extending your neck,” Healthline reveals. The scalene muscles, a group of three muscles working together, enable you to move, bend, and stretch your neck to the side. When properly stretched, these muscles keep your neck and cervical spine relaxed and upright.
LEVATOR SCAPULAE STRETCH
- Turn your head to the left.
- Reach up with your left hand and place it on the top of your head with your elbow bent.
- Gently pull your head toward your shoulder. Move your head in a diagonal direction until you feel a light stretch.
- Keep the opposite shoulder flat.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds, then repeat on each side.
One of the best stretches for neck tightness, this exercise targets the levator scapulae. The levator scapulae are located behind the neck above the shoulder blades. These muscles allow us to bend our necks, turn our heads, tilt our heads backward, and raise our shoulders. Levator scapulae muscles lift the scapula, ultimately helping support the cervical spine.
- Rotate your head as far to the left as possible.
- From there, tilt your head back reaching toward your shoulder.
- Tilt your head until you feel a gentle stretch in the long muscle on the side of the neck, your sternocleidomastoid muscle.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds, and repeat on each side.
Stretching the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle helps relieve neck tightness because this particular muscle plays a role in nearly all neck movement. Plus, the SCM keeps your head balanced upright. This is important for maintaining good posture and preventing neck tightness.
BOW AND ARROW STRETCH
- Start sitting tall with good posture
- Reach out your left arm as far as it will go.
- With your left arm fully extended, draw your right elbow up as if shooting a bow and arrow.
- For a full stretch, try to bring your shoulder blades together.
- Hold this stretch for up to 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
The bow and arrow stretch targets the shoulders, upper back muscles, upper lumbar spine, lower cervical spine and thoracic spine. Practiced regularly, it improves overall spine mobility and helps alleviate neck tightness. It is a gentle, non-weighted exercise perfect for recovering after strain or injury.
Let the professionals at Peak Physiotherapy and Performance walk you through the best stretches for neck pain relief. When applicable, in-person appointments take place at one of our two locations near Columbus, Ohio. Contact us to schedule a free phone consultation.
For more information about stretching to relieve neck tightness, download Peak Physiotherapy and Performance’s free ebook, 7 Ways To Ease Neck And Shoulder Pain.