On average, 2 out of every 3 people will experience some degree of neck pain in their lifetime, with women tending to report more neck-related pain than their male counterparts. Fortunately, research suggests most neck pain is likely to respond well to exercise, and only certain cases will require spine surgery.
The purpose of neck stretches is to maintain or improve range of motion within the affected neck joints. Stretches that address the six possible ranges of motion within the neck are:
- Neck Flexion – Chin lowered towards chest
- Neck Extension – Slowly lean head back
- Right Lateral Flexion – Right ear lowered towards right shoulder
- Left Lateral Flexion – Left ear lowered towards left shoulder
- Right Rotation – Head slowly turned to the right with chin close to right shoulder
- Left Rotation – Head slowly turned to left with chin close to left shoulder
Neck strengthening exercises are meant to improve posture and reduce or eliminate pain from occasional flare-ups (bouts of inflammation) by strengthening muscles and tendons supporting the cervical spine. Such exercises include:
- Shoulder shrugs – With back straight, shrug shoulders in short reps
- Chin tucks – Tuck chin until you feel a mild or moderate pain-free stretch
- Prone Cobra (more advanced) – Head is placed on a rolled up towel while laying face down with arms at side and palms down while pinching shoulder blades and lifting hands off the floor, forehead lifted about an inch from the towel with eyes looking straight (hold for 10 seconds)
- Yoga – 8-point shoulder opener, cow face arms (among poses that may help strengthen neck muscles)
As with any type of exercise, it’s recommended that you seek the doctor’s approval first. A physical therapist specializing in neck and back pain (the two are often related) can also suggest safe exercises to reduce or eliminate neck pain.
Stretches are often first recommended to patients as part of a conservative approach to care. However, when stretches combined with other non-surgical treatments such as medications, steroid injections or acupuncture do not provide the patient with relief, a doctor may suggest or refer you to a board-certified spine surgeon in Los Angeles.
To request an in-person consultation to determine the cause of your pain and possible treatment options, call 310-828-7757 and speak with a representative from The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. As one of the area’s leading spine centers, you can trust our advanced diagnostic team to help you explore all possible pain-relief options.