The Ultimate Guide to Neck Stretches

The Ultimate Guide to Neck Stretches

April 05, 2019

Why Neck Stretches are Worth It

The benefits of regular stretching are undeniable. It has been proven that stretching can help increase flexibility, reduce stress, and increase blood flow. Neck stretches can be particularly beneficial as they can also help ease pain, improve range of motion, and prevent injury.

However, despite the many benefits of neck stretches, most people are not familiar with the advantages related to this practice or the right methods to make the most of it.

How to Stretch Your Neck...The Right Way

You don’t need to have a stiff neck or bad posture to start a regular stretching regimen. A minute or two of daily stretches can have a positive impact on your neck and core, even if you don’t feel any symptoms. As opposed to other types of stretches and yoga-like poses, neck stretching exercises are easy to perform and can be done at home, work, and anywhere in between.

While simple neck stretches can help alleviate minor pain, moderate and severe pain should be treated by a licensed professional. Chronic neck pain and injuries can have long-lasting consequences which can be prevented with physical therapy or a special neck stretching machine.

Stretches for Neck Pain

Exercise, bad posture, poor sleep, and other everyday factors can cause mild to severe neck pain in people of all ages. If a stiff, sore neck is keeping you up at night or distracting you at work, try the following neck stretches to help relax the muscles and alleviate discomfort.

Chin to Chest/Eyes to the Sky

The best way to perform this simple neck stretching exercise is to do it while seated. Your head should be centered, and your eyes 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.

The Eyes to Sky exercise can be considered the opposite of the chin to chest, though it is equally effective. Simply change the direction of the movement, so instead of moving toward your chin, bend your head backward, so your eyes look up to the sky.

For the Side of Your Neck: Seated Neck Release

Start in a cross-legged position on a flat surface or a mat. Extend your left arm alongside the side of your left knee, with the palm of your hand flat on the floor. Next, place your right hand on top of your head and slowly tilt your head to the right while applying light pressure with your left hand to increase the stretch. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, and repeat three more times. Repeat this stretch on the other side.

Stretches for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Neck muscles are connected to our shoulders which is why neck pain often comes with minor shoulder pain, as well. If you ever find yourself in this situation, these two neck and shoulder stretches may help relieve the pain:

Neck Circles

As the name implies, this easy 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, reversing directions each time.

Behind the Back Neck Stretch

Like most of the stretches included in this guide, this standing stretch can be performed anywhere. Start by standing with your feet hip distance apart and reach both hands behind your butt. Grab your left wrist with your right hand and pull it away from you slightly. You can gently tilt your neck to the sides to increase the stretch. Hold the position for 30 seconds and switch sides.

Neck Stretches for a Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve may be the result of repetitive movements that cause pressure on a nerve. It may also occur when you hold your body in an uncomfortable position for extended periods, especially while sleeping. While pain from a pinched nerve may feel like any other type of neck pain, the damage can be severe and cause long-lasting problems. If you are suffering from a pinched nerve, try the following two neck muscle exercises which can help alleviate the pain.

Side Bends

Start in a standing position with your arms to the side and hands on your hips. Slowly lean to the left without moving your feet. You should try to keep a straight posture throughout this stretch without bending your torso forward or backward. Perform five side bends towards each side holding each stretch for 10-20 seconds.

Rotating Shoulder Shrugs

Shrug your shoulders backward in a rotation 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.

Stretches for Upper Back and Neck Pain

Butterfly Wings

This exercise helps alleviate upper back and neck pain by strengthening the rhomboid muscles. 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.


Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground and let your hands hang down on your sides. Without bending your elbows, lift up your arms with your palms facing each other. Your arms should stay parallel to each other, forming to straight I’s. Think of the “A” motion in the “YMCA” dance without your hands ever touching. Bring your arms back down and repeat this motion 5-10 times.

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