Stiff neck? try these exercises!

We’ve all had a pain in the neck!
Be it from sitting at a desk all day, driving for hours or lifting to heavy in the gym.
Plenty of people will also be extremely tight and stiff in the neck from whiplash.
So I’m going to go through a few exercises below that I have taught many of my personal training and sports massage clients.
I often advise to use this sequence as a short break from work and to repeat it as often as you think of it throughout the day.

Its always a good idea to warm up any muscle groups and joints that your planning on stretching, so below are are three animations demonstrating a good way to get your neck warm.
You can do these in any order but I’ve put them in the order that I will typically do them in.

Starting with looking up and down, I try to avoid moving my chest and shoulders along with the movement. There will always be some movement but try to keep it minimal.
It’s also worth thinking of your face lifting up to the ceiling and lengthening the neck rather than just tipping the head back.

Second, side to side, if you imagine there is a rod rising from your spine you want to pivot your head around that to avoid tipping the head instead of just twisting the neck.
Again try to avoid excessive chest or shoulder movement.

Thirdly, ear to shoulder. Keeping your face forward tip the head to one side then the other, try to avoid turning your head and partially looking to the side.

Please forgive the quality of animation, this is literally the 2nd, 3rd and 4th animations I’ve ever done.

You can repeat each of the above exercises for as long as you like, obviously the longer you do them the warmer your neck will be.

Once you’ve warmed up your neck you can go through some stretches.

I typically start by stretching the traps, these are a big muscle group that goes from the base of your skull, out along the top of each shoulder blade and about half way down the back of your rib cage.
Keeping your ribs stable use both hands to gently pull your head forward.
I typically feel this stretch between my shoulder blades but you may well feel it into your neck too.

I then follow this by stretching the upper aspect of the traps.
Keeping as tall as possible I put one arm behind my back to stabilise the shoulder. I then use the other hand to gently pull my head to the side. This stretch will be felt along the side of the neck down the top of the shoulder.

The last stretch is targeting the lev scap. This is the deeper muscle attaching your shoulder blade to the top of your neck. This is the typically problematic muscle that has shown excessive tension in every client whose neck I have ever massaged!

Starting off the same way as with the upper trap stretch; standing tall with one arm behind your back, gently pull your head to the side.
Once you have the stretch along the neck to the top of the shoulder you then bring your head forward.
As you pull your head forward the stretch will move from the top of your shoulder to the inner part of your shoulder blade.

I complete this stretch routine every morning when I get out of bed as I have dificulty with tension here as much as everybody else and I will repeat it several times through out the day.

There are lots of other movements you can do combined with this such as shoulder rolls or trunk rotations that will compliment this sequence really well.
If you were to also combine this with hip stretches to you could go a long way towards improving the movement of your spine and reducing/overcoming many typical aches and pains.

I will be writing other blog post describing hip stretches and also looking at strength exercises to contribute overcoming pain.


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