One of the most annoying things I dread is driving when you have a stiff neck or neck pain. The discomfort and inconvenience can really drive you up the wall, or worse still crash your car into the lamp post. Neck pain causes are normally due to a lifetime of bad postural habits. These bad habits create imbalance in our muscles which can develop into postural distortions and finally neck pain and shoulders aches.
However you need not live with neck pain and the irritation that comes with it. You don’t have to fight through the pain by hoping it will disappear in a day or two or taking prescription medication. Doing neck exercises can help to relieve your neck and back pain. These exercises do not require any special equipment and are simple and easy to perform.
An effective neck exercise program involves mainly stretching and strengthening exercises.
Stretching exercises for the neck
These are simple exercises which you can do even while you are sitting at your desk or standing at the pantry.
This exercise will relax your neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles.
Begin by looking straight ahead and slowly lift your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold for about 5 seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times. If you are always sitting down staring at the computer, do it every hour.
Start by holding your neck straight. Slide your chin slowly forward. Hold for about five seconds and return to starting position. Repeat ten times.
Neck Forward Flexion
Start by looking straight ahead. Lower your chin slowly towards your chest. Hold for five seconds and then return to the start position. Repeat ten times.
Move your head slowly backward without arching your back so that you are looking at the ceiling. Hold for five seconds and then return to the starting position. Good exercise for preventing neck strain.
Start by looking straight ahead. Turn your head slowly to the right. Hold for ten seconds and then return to the starting position. Next turn your head slowly to the other side. Hold for ten seconds and return to the start. Repeat this ten times.
Neck Side Extension
Start by looking straight ahead. Tilt your head slowly towards your left shoulder. Hold for five seconds and then return to the start position. Next tilt your head slowly to your right shoulder. Hold for five seconds and the return to the start position. Repeat this ten times.
Hold the back of your head with both hands and each thumb at the base of head. Apply slight pressure on your thumbs for five seconds. Release the pressure and relax for about five seconds. Do five repetitions. These two acupressure points relieve your neck pain by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers.
Strengthening exercises for the neck
These strengthening exercises will make your neck muscles stronger and help relieve the pain.
Seated Chin Tuck
Sit on a sturdy chair looking straight ahead and your chin parallel to the floor. Slowly retract your chin and head back and slightly down until you feel a stretch at the back of your neck. Hold for ten seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat this sequence a few times a day. You can also do this at home lying flat on the floor. This is an excellent exercise to help correct poor posture such as rounded back and forward head position.
You can do this either sitting or standing with your back and neck straight. Look straight ahead with your shoulders slightly back. Put one hand behind your head and slowly push your head back against your hand. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Repeat ten times. You can progressively increase the repetitions, frequency, and strength of contraction, provided you do not feel any pain.
This is a more advanced exercise that strengthens not only your neck but also your shoulder muscles and the upper back.
Start by lying face down on the floor with your arms on your sides and your palms facing up. Use a mat if possible. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and raise your chest and hands off the floor. At the same time rotate your thumbs to face the ceiling. Keep your spine neutral and streamlined. Hold for ten seconds and return to the start position. Repeat ten times.
Besides accidents, neck pain causes can be reduced if we avoid bad habits and doing the right exercises, even when there is no neck pain. Neck exercises if done correctly, can increase your mobility and range of motion and strengthen your back. When you have more mobility in your neck, you will be able to move your neck more freely and stiffness will be reduced and finally disappear.