Neck pain is very prevalent in our society and can be very disabling, resulting in lost time at work, decreased productivity and PAIN! Anyone whom has experienced neck pain before will readily agree that preventing it is best, but once it does occur you want it gone as soon as possible. Today we are focusing on active ways to help reduce neck pain once it occurs and then prevent it from coming back. Most of the article is focused on pain, but make no mistake these should be done on a REGULAR basis to keep feeling your best and not done only when having pain.
Our last blog post went over the top 5 hacks for neck pain relief. If you missed that, make sure to check that out first here!
The following are the top 5 exercises for neck pain relief and prevention:
1. CHIN TUCKS.
Chin tucks are a very effective neck exercise that involve bringing your chin straight backwards, giving yourself a lovely double chin. These exercises help offset the forward head posture that is so common and puts your head in a more neutral position, minimizing strain to the muscles and ligaments in the neck and upper back. Chin tucks are also especially helpful if you feel a tension headache beginning and may help reduce the intensity of the headache.
2. NECK STRETCHES.
Stretching your neck in all directions is important because it keeps the muscles from stiffening up and keeps the blood flowing to those muscles. Like any muscles in the body, the neck muscles like to be stretched and exercised regularly. If you are a person that sits most of the day for work, taking a few minutes every hours to stretch your neck is helpful in combating neck pain.
3. CHEST STRETCHES.
Stretching your chest muscles, such as your Pectoralis muscles, helps to loosen the shoulders and prevent the shoulders from rolling forward too much as a result of sitting in a slumped position. The more the shoulders are loose and in a relaxed position, the less they pull on the neck and upper back minimizing muscle tension and pain. One great chest stretch is the door way stretch. To do: position one bent arm in a doorway at a slightly higher than 90 degree angle to the floor, and simply twist your torso away from your arm feeling the stretch in the chest and shoulder. While stretching ensure to be using your diaphragm to breath, practicing slow and controlled breaths.
4. UPPER BACK MOBILIZATIONS.
Yes, the back and neck are connected BIG TIME just like the song says that we learned as children- “the knee bone is connected to the foot bone”. Often- times people come in to my office that sit most of the day and they are found to have a very tight and restricted upper back, with their spines being restricted and their muscles being tense. Once the upper back is loosened up and is more mobile the neck starts to feel better! I recommend mobilizing the upper back with chiropractic adjustments, stretches and specific exercises used in combination to achieve long lasting results. One great exercise to mobilize the upper back is what I call “open book”, where you lay on your side with your legs bent and stacked on top of one another. You simply slowly rotate the top arm open as far as you can aiming to reach it to the floor on the other side of you, or however much you can go comfortably. Return, and repeat. Breathing, again, should be slow and controlled using your diaphragm and not your chest.
5. LACROSSE BALL SOFT TISSUE WORK.
Use a lacrosse ball to loosen tight muscles in your upper back and neck. Start by lying on your back on the floor and position the lacrosse ball between one side of your spine and shoulder blade and allow the weight of your body to sink into the ball to your tolerance. It may feel tender; so only apply the pressure that feels right to you. Make sure while lying on the ball to practice slow and controlled breathing through your stomach. Another way to use a lacrosse ball for neck pain is to take the ball and place it at the base of the skull, just slightly left or right of midline, and do small chin tucks against the ball repeatedly.
Practice these top five neck and upper back exercises and your body will thank you!