1 in 10 Australians suffer from neck pain, which may persist for years 1. At Eastland Family Chiropractic, your Ringwood chiropractor, we see a lot of shoulder and neck pain. Causes of neck pain commonly include: poor posture, poor sleeping habits, car and sporting accidents, and even stress 2. In fact, current evidence suggests that stress can double the risk of neck pain 2.
At Eastland Family Chiropractic, your Ringwood chiropractor, we are all about self-empowerment. There are a number of exercises you can do at home to help relieve your neck pain and strengthen the neck muscles. You don’t have to do them all: do the ones that help you the most, and stop doing the ones that increase pain. Make sure you do each exercise slowly and hold each stretch for 30 seconds or more 3.
Side and diagonal neck stretches
Make sure you keep your shoulders down and relaxed. They shouldn’t be up near your ears- if you struggle to remember to relax your shoulders, sit on your hands! Tilt your head sideways, bringing your ear to your shoulder. Let the weight of your head slowly stretch out your upper trapezius muscle. To increase the stretch, you can gently pull down with your hand.
To do a diagonal stretch, keep your ear pulled down towards your shoulder, and then turn your head so that you are looking at your hip on that same side. You should now feel the stretch more towards the back of your neck. Again, you may push with your hand to increase the stretch. This one is great for the levator scapulae muscle that gets really tight with sitting in front of the computer all day!
The dorsal glide aims to stretch the back of the neck at the base of the skull, by stretching the suboccipital muscles. It also strengthens the deep neck flexors, which are commonly underactive in patients with neck pain.
It can be performed seated, standing or even lying down. Slowly tuck your chin in as you glide your head backward over your body. Hold it for a count of 6, and then relax for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. This can be done three times per day- in the car, on the bus or even at work!
This stretch aims to stretch out the pec muscles and the front of the shoulders. Make sure you are sitting or standing tall to begin with, and tuck your chin in (by performing the dorsal glide). Raise both arms to 90 degrees so that they are level with your ears. As you breathe out, slowly lower your elbows, bringing them behind your back and trying to pinch your shoulder blades together. You should feel a stretch across the front of your chest. It should look like you are making snow angels in the air. Hold the stretch for 6 seconds, and then relax for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
There are many, many stretching and strengthening exercises that you can do to help alleviate neck pain and strengthen your neck muscles.
- Fact Sheets 2012 [12/04/2016]. Available from: http://www.gentlecarechironorwest.com.au/fact-sheets/.
- Grimby-Ekman A, Andersson E, Hagberg M. Neck pain and perceived stress: analysing repeated binary outcomes from a cohort study. Occup Environ Med. 2011;68:A116-7.
- WebMD. Neck exercises 2014 [12/04/2016]. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/tc/neck-exercises-topic-overview.