Let’s be honest, neck pain sucks. And thanks to our increasingly sedentary lives spent hunched over laptops, tablets, phones, or watching TV with our necks craned forward, neck pain is more common than ever. You could say we have a neck pain epidemic.
The good news is that it need not be chronic, we can improve posture and build strength and flexibility without resorting to extreme gym regimes or fanatical yoga practices. Just a few small exercises can keep your neck and shoulders in the right position, reduce strain and improve your range of movement so that you will be happier, pain-free and more effective in your daily lives.
So here are 5 top exercises you can do on a daily basis to stop neck pains becoming such a pain in the neck.
The hot neck roll
Not quite rock ‘n’ roll, the neck roll is a nice slow neck warm up that relieves pain and improves range of movement. Neck pain is generally caused by muscle stiffness and tightness which heat can help to relieve. Applying a hot pack helps the blood vessels to dilate, allowing for improved circulation.
So put a hot pack on your neck and let it rest on your shoulders as well. Sit up against the back of a couch or chair to help keep the hot pack in place. Bend your head gently to the left and roll your head forward and round to the right. Make a full circle neck roll with the heat pack in place, moving slowly. Finally, perform the head and neck roll in the opposite direction and repeat.
Linked hands behind the neck
This is a bit like the neck roll but it uses pressure instead of heat to encourage muscle strengthening tension release that is causing you pain.
First clasp your hands together, interlacing your fingers. Place hands behind your head, keeping them there. Next, slowly and gently pull your head forward. When you begin to feel the muscle stretching, hold for five seconds and then return your head to an upright position, removing your hands. Then reach over and touch the left side of your head with your right hand. While gently holding the left side of your head, pull it to the right until you feel the tug in the side of your neck. Again, hold for five seconds and return to start. Repeat this to the left. With hands clasped at the bottom of your neck, bend the neck backwards as far as you can. Hold this for 10 seconds.
The wall stretch
In order to lessen neck pain and improve posture you need to get your shoulders and shoulder blades into the right place and relaxed. This stretch works the muscles in and surrounding the neck, building pressure that, when released, can provide huge relief.
Stand in an empty corner facing the walls. Place a hand on each wall at shoulder height. With your feet a couple of feet away from the wall, press on your palms and pull your neck up. Hold this for 30 seconds. Take a rest then repeat.
Roll around the clock
This exercise will strengthen and loosen up your upper torso, neck, and shoulders. It’s also a great to practice to do with deep breathing.
First, stand with your back to a wall and your hands by your side, make sure the palms are facing out. Imagine you are a giant wall clock and raise both hands up to the five and seven clock position. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Next keeping your hands close to the wall, move to the 4 and 8 position. Keep going until both hands are pointing to 12 and then count back down.
Seals are famous for their neck movements and copying them here might just save your neck. The seal stretches the neck areas that cause the most problems and you can do it with a hot pack too. If you do the seal regularly, you’ll strengthen muscles and prevent pain in the long run.
To do it, lie face down on a mat or on the ground. Place your hands at your sides, then raise your upper torso and neck up, stretching as high as you can into the air. Finally, lower yourself, rest, and repeat. Seal noises and beach ball balanced on your nose are optional!