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  • Kris

Top Five Stretches for a Stiff Neck

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Neck pain is caused by many different things - sleeping in bad position, being hunched over the computer screen, looking down at your phone, and driving are just a few of the things that can contribute to neck pain. It's definitely uncomfortable and can lead to headaches and jaw pain. It often can be alleviated with rest, heat/ice, massage, and in some cases an anti-inflammatory can help. The problem may lie in our posture. Due to our everyday activities, we end up with our head and shoulders being in a forward position. The muscles in the neck and upper traps will attempt to pull them back into alignment and after a while they begin to feel stiff and tight. Think about alignment while sitting and standing can help. Picture your ribs stacked over your pelvis, and your head stacked over your ribs to help with your postural alignment.

Another potential reason for neck pain is the way we breathe. We are prone to breathe in a shallow manner especially if we are upset or stressed. This puts strain on the muscles in the pectoral muscles as well as the upper trapezius muscles. Being mindful of breathing from the diaphragm can help calm the nervous system as well as take pressure off the neck. Here are five stretches to try if you are experiencing neck pain.

  1. Upper Trapezius Stretch: Start either standing or sitting and place one hand on your lower back and the other hand on the opposite side of your head. Gently pull your head toward your shoulder, looking straight ahead until you feel a stretch in your neck. Hold for at least 30 seconds being mindful to take deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.

  2. Thread the Needle: Start on all fours with knees in line with hips and wrists in line with shoulders. Reach your right arm underneath your body with your palm facing up. Bend your left elbow as you gently lean into your right side (you will feel a stretch in the back of your right shoulder). Hold for one deep breath and then return to the starting position and repeat. Continue for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

  3. Banded Pull Aparts: Stand with your feet hip width distance apart and hold one end of a resistance band in each hand. Raise your straight arms to shoulder height, palms down, with your hands about six inches apart. The band should have slight tension, but not taught. Pull the band apart, extending the upper body to a T position (keep hands at the same height). When the band is fully extended, pause for 2 seconds. Return to. starting position and repeat for at least 30 seconds.

  4. Neck Rotation (turning side to side): Keeping spine tall and shoulders back and down, gradually turn your head to the left as far as you can go without pain. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds before returning back to the starting position. Repeat the same stretch on the right side.

  5. Forward and Backward Tilt: Start with your spine tall and your head squarely over your shoulders. Lower your chin towards your chest and hold for 15-30 seconds. Relax and slowly lift your head back up. Tilt your chin. up toward the ceiling and bring the base of your skull towards your back. Hold for 10 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat several times.


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