In Part 1 and Part 2, we discussed neck stretches for sore muscles at the side and back of the neck. While this may often help with alleviating symptoms of neck pain, mid-back pain, and certain types of headaches, they aren’t always recommended for longer term management of postural conditions. Forward head posture, for example, requires stretching of the musculature at the front of the neck and chest along with strengthening the muscles necessary to bring your head back to a neutral posture. In Part 3, we will discuss how to perform neck stretches for two of these types of muscles. Please talk to your health care provider before starting a stretching program. These neck stretches are not always recommended for certain conditions.
The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles are located on both sides of the neck. They originate at the bottom of the skull behind the ears and attach at the front of the base of the neck at the sternum and collarbones. It’s function is to bend the head forward and to assist with rotation of the neck. These muscles are normally tight when forward head posture is observed. They are also often strained during whiplash injuries. The SCM can be stretched in a variety of ways depending on the goals of the practitioner. Here is one method: Sitting tall, with shoulders back, flex your head forward towards your chest. Slowly turn your head to one side. Repeat to the opposite side. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.
The scalene muscles are located on both sides of your neck and are divided into the anterior, middle and posterior components. The anterior scalenes are located more towards the front and side of the neck. They originate at the sides of the cervical spine and attach to the 1st ribs at the front. This muscle is often stretched for improving head posture and possibly to treat thoracic outlet syndrome.
Sitting tall, place one hand on opposite collar bone. Turn the head away, look up and tilt head towards the shoulder. Use gentle pressure on the collar bone to increase the neck stretch. Less side bending and more head extension targets the anterior scalene even more. More side bending and less extension stretches more of the middle scalene. Discontinue the stretch if you feel any pain that is different than muscle soreness from the stretch itself, or if there are any strange symptoms, such as dizziness. The stretch should be held for 15 to 20 seconds. This method will also stretch parts of the SCM, so is often used in combination.
Please comment below if you have any questions!
Examples provided are courtesy of Phases Rehab exercise prescription software.
Dr. Chris Enns, B.Sc., D.C. has been a Winnipeg chiropractor since 2005. He is the owner of Balance Chiropractic and Wellness Centre, located at 121 St. Anne’s Rd in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Services include: chiropractic, massage therapy, athletic therapy, orthotics, spinal decompression therapy, laser therapy, x-ray services, and health and fitness consulting.