Stiff Neck Exercises for Pain Management

Stiff neck exerciseStiff neck exercises are a common part of a neck pain treatment program. These exercise programs consist of a combo of strengthening exercises and stretching, trigger point exercises and aerobic conditioning. Recurrent or chronic neck can be very debilitating and can often be accompanied by headaches, shoulder blade pain, and upper back pain. These issues, in addition to stiff joints and tight neck muscles, can make even the simplest activities painful.

The Importance of Stretching the Neck Muscles

Stretching and flexibility exercises work to preserve or expand the elasticity and range of motion in the affected neck joints, which in turn relieves any stiffness that can cause pain. For most people suffering from neck pain, these stretches should be done many times a day.

Strengthening exercises can work to improve posture, which helps to eliminate or lessen recurrent flare-ups. You can also try body weight back exercises in order to further strengthen the upper back and reduce tension in the neck.

Aerobic movements can increase circulation to the soft tissues and muscles in the upper back and neck. This can help to increase the range of motion and loosen muscles in the neck. Additionally, the body will also produce endorphins after thirty minutes of aerobic exercises. Endorphins work as a natural painkiller and can help to minimize pain. Aerobic exercises can be performed daily. Good examples of this type of conditioning include stationary bike training, treadmill workouts, and the elliptical machine.

For many people, before beginning a workout program, it’s necessary to get the neck pain under control first. Gradual stretches and joint motion to increase the neck’s range of motion over time can help to minimize the amount of pain experienced during normal activities.

Tackling Neck Pain before Starting a Stretching Program

There are plenty of options to choose from that can help you to manage chronic neck pain, including:

•    Use a heating pad before you exercise in order to warm up stiff joints and muscles, making it easier to stretch.

•    After stretching, apply an ice pack to help reduce inflammation in the muscles and joints.

•    Use an over the counter anti-inflammatory, which can also help to reduce inflammation.

Before you begin any kind of exercise or stretching program you should consult your physician or meet with a trained physical therapist.

The following stretches can help to relieve neck and upper back pain:

The corner stretch is a basic exercise that’s also important for stretching the shoulder and chest muscles. This type of stretch is done in the corner of a room.

You must stand about two feet back from a corner, facing into the corner. The feet should be placed together, with the forearms resting on each wall and the elbows kept slightly below shoulder height.  Next, you’ll need to lean in as far as possible without causing additional pain. You will feel the stretch in the chest, neck and front of the shoulders. You should hold this stretch for sixty seconds.

You can perform this stretch up to five times a day and before doing any neck strengthening exercises.

The levator scapula is a type of stretch that’s also helpful for reducing neck pain. The levator scapula is a muscle that attaches to the shoulder blade and often becomes very tender and tight. This stretch can be done while standing or sitting.

Start off by raising your elbow above the shoulder in order to lengthen the muscle. Next, rest your elbow against a door jam. This works to rotate the outside of the shoulder, which in turn lengthens the levator scapula. Turn your head away from the side you’re stretching, bringing the chin down and stretching the back of your neck. Next, place the fingers of the opposite hand on the top of your head, gently pulling your head forward in order to slightly increase the stretch. Hold this position for sixty seconds.

Some studies have determined that it’s important to stretch any tight muscles before strengthening exercises. It’s believed that stretching can relax tightened muscles and make strengthening exercises much more effective.

Exercises to Strengthen the Neck Muscles

workout for stiff neckThe suboccipital and the scalene muscles can be effectively stretched by strengthening the weakened postural muscles including the deep cervical flexors and the upper thoracic extensors.

The following neck exercises can work to minimize neck pain:

The chin tuck is one of the most effective postural exercises that can help reduce neck pain.  This exercise stretches the suboccipital muscles and helps to strengthen the muscles that pull the head into proper alignment.

This exercise can be done several times during the day while sitting at your desk at work or in your car. Repeating this exercise frequently can help you to develop better postural habits. It’s also important to perform the movement when the shoulders and neck first begin to hurt.

To perform this exercise, stand with your spine placed against a door jamb, placing your feet about four inches from the door jamb’s bottom.

Keep your spine against the jamb while pulling the upper back and head back until your head touches the jamb. Make sure your chin remains down, allowing the head to remain straight back. Hold this position for ten seconds, repeating it ten times.

The prone cobra is a more advanced exercise that can help to strengthen the muscles of the upper back, neck and shoulder girdle.  This exercise is done lying face down on the floor. This position uses gravity as a resistance in the muscle strengthening process.

Start by lying face down, placing your forehead on a firm pillow or rolled up towel. Place your arms at your sides with your palms facing down. Next, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, this will work to stabilize the muscles located in the front of the neck. The shoulder blades should be pinched together and the hands should lift off the floor. Roll your elbows in, keeping the palms out. Now, lift your forehead about two inches off the pillow or towel and keep your eyes looking directly at the floor. Hold this position for twenty seconds and perform ten reps, and that’s how you do stiff neck exercises.