Have a Stiff Neck? These Stretches and Exercises Can Help

neck strength equipment


If you have ever woken up with a stiff neck, you know it can be quite an unpleasant experience. The pain resulting from a tense neck can have severe consequences on the physical, professional, and psychological aspects of your day. Fortunately, there are various treatments you can follow to minimize the pain and discomfort related to a stiff neck.

What Causes a Stiff Neck?

There is no single cause for a stiff neck. A tense neck may be the result of many different factors including:

    • Poor Posture:

Pain associated with neck injuries can become chronic if not treated immediately. Violent injuries may damage muscles and ligaments in your neck, often leading to recurring stiffness. Neck injuries are normally caused by car accidents, contact sports, and falls.

    • Stress:

Emotional stress can cause your neck muscles to become tense. In fact, a stiff neck can be an early signal that you are experiencing high levels of stress.

    • Muscle Spasms:

Muscle spasms are contractions common in neck and back muscles. They are typically caused by nutritional deficiencies and dehydration.

    • Other Conditions: 

A stiff neck may also be related to symptoms of more serious conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia. Mild viral infections such as the flu may also cause a stiff neck in some cases.

Stiff Neck Stretches

Neck stretches are the easiest way to alleviate pain and relieve tension from a stiff neck. If you are suffering from a sore neck, try the following stretches. Some of these stretches are part of the McKenzie neck exercises routine, a set of stretches and exercises specifically designed to treat neck pain and spinal problems.

Chin to Chest

The best way to perform this simple stiff neck stretch is to do it while seated. Your head should be centered, and your eyes are facing straight forward as a starting position. Begin by slowly bending your head forward until your chin touches your chest. Hold this position for 10-20 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat this movement three or four more times for better results.

Rotating Shoulder Shrugs

Shrug your shoulders backward in slow rotating motion while keeping your arms to the sides. Perform 3-5 sets of fifteen shrugs with 30-second breaks in between. For a better stretch, perform in a standing position.

Neck Circles

This easy stiff neck exercise consists of simple head rotations you can do sitting down or standing up. Start with your chin drawn into your chest and slowly take your left ear over to your left shoulder. Lift your head up and slightly tilt it back, so you are looking at the ceiling. Then bring your right ear over to your right shoulder to complete the rotation. Repeat 3-5 times, switching directions each time.

Butterfly Wings

This exercise helps alleviate upper back pain which often results from a stiff neck. Sit up straight and touch your shoulders with your fingertips, right hand on the right shoulder and left hand on the left shoulder. Start with your elbows pointing out to the sides and pull them together in front of you until they touch. Your fingertips should not leave your shoulder at any point. Bring elbows back to their starting position and repeat.

Stiff Neck Exercises

While stretches for a stiff neck may be an effective way to relieve pain temporarily, other methods can help strengthen neck muscles to treat long term injuries and prevent future strains.

Many cases involving sore and tight necks can be treated with physical therapy programs. These programs often consist of a combination of stretches and strengthening exercises that require professional guidance. Physical therapy also relies upon special neck strengthening equipment like the Iron Neck, which is designed to rebuild neck stability and core strength. Even though the specific methods and duration vary from person to person, the goals of physical therapy often include reducing pain, improving range of motion, and developing routines to prevent future injuries.

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