Neck exercises

The following exercises will help strengthen the muscles in your neck as well as relieve existing neck pain. You do not need to do every exercise. Do the ones that help you the most. Stop any exercise that increases pain. Do each exercise slowly.

  1. Dorsal glide stretches the back of the neck. If you feel pain, do not glide so far back. Some people find this exercise easier to do while lying on their backs with an ice pack on the neck.
    • Sit or stand tall and look straight ahead.
    • Slowly tuck your chin as you glide your head backward over your body.
    • Hold for a count of 6, then relax for up to 10 seconds.
    • Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  2. Chest and shoulder stretch
    • Sit or stand tall and glide your head backward as in exercise 1.
    • Raise both arms so that your hands are next to your ears.
    • Take a deep breath, and as you breathe out, lower your elbows down and behind your back. You will feel your shoulder blades slide down and together, and at the same time you will feel a stretch across your chest and the front of your shoulders.
    • Hold for about 6 seconds, then relax for up to 10 seconds.
    • Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  3. Shoulder lifts
    • Lie facedown with your arms beside your body.
    • Lift your head and shoulders straight up from the floor as high as you can without pain. Keep looking at the floor so you do not arch your neck back. Keep your torso and hips pressed to the floor.
    • Hold for about 6 seconds, then relax for up to 10 seconds.
    • Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  4. Hands on head
    • Move your head backward, forward, and side to side against gentle pressure from your hands, holding each position for about 6 seconds.
    • Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Last Updated: August 21, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

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