Most of us have experienced some form of neck pain in our lives. Maybe you slept in a strange position and woke up with a stiff neck or spent too much time at the computer and felt sore the next day. Flexibility and mobility in the neck are important in preventing neck pain and discomfort. Flexibility refers to muscles and mobility refers to joints, both of which are important in maintaining normal movement in the neck. Below are 5 easy to do stretches that can help maintain neck flexibility and mobility and prevent injury and pain. Remember, stretches should not be painful.
Breakdown of Neck Stretches
1. Scalene Stretch
The scalenes are a group of three pairs of muscles on the side of the neck. They work to side bend the neck and flex the neck. To stretch these muscles start by sitting in good upright posture. Gently tuck your chin, then bend your ear towards your shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds.
2. Levator Scapulae Stretch
The levator muscle is located on the back and side of the neck. It’s job is to lift the shoulder blade. To stretch this muscle look gently down and to the side like you are looking at your pocket. Hold for 20 seconds.
3. Butterfly Stretch
The butterfly stretch is a stretch for thoracic spine mobility. When we sit or use computers for prolonged periods of time our upper back is in a flexed position. The purpose of this stretch is to move in the opposite direction and help with stiffness in thoracic extension. To perform this stretch start by resting your hand gently at the side of your head near your ears. Then gently open your elbows until you feel stretch. You may feel more of a stretch in your shoulders or more of a pressure feeling in your middle back between the shoulder blades. Pause in this position for 2-3 seconds then bring your elbows back together. Do this 10 times.
4. Foam rolling
The foam roller is an excellent tool for mobility in the upper back. To use a foam roller, gently lay on the ground perpendicular to the roller with your upper back resting on the roller. Raise your hips off the ground and roll up and down on the roller. Move up towards the base of your neck and down towards the junction between your upper and lower back. Do 10 times. It is normal to hear some popping in your back when you do this.
5. Child’s pose
Child’s pose in an excellent gentle stretch for mobility in the neck and upper back. To perform this stretch, start by resting in a kneeling position. Then gently reach forward with your arms until your head and arms rest on the floor. Hold this stretch for 40-60 seconds.
Maintaining good mobility in the neck is important in preventing pain and dysfunction in the neck. Try these stretches at home to help keep your body healthy. If you are having neck pain or stiffness the physical therapists at Life’s Work Physical Therapy can help identify the cause of the problem and develop a customized treatment plan. Give us a call today if you have any questions!