Neck pain? How To Stretch Your Neck: Part 1
In this series of articles, we will discuss some of the most common stretches I give to my patients with neck pain or headaches. We will begin with the most basic range of motion stretches. These are the building blocks towards improved mobility of the neck. Please note that these stretches are not always indicated for every patient and so should be performed with caution if being done without an assessment by a qualified health practitioner.
The neck moves in a variety of directions: flexion, extension, lateral bending, and rotation. However, there are combinations of each ‘pure’ range of motion. For example, bringing the nose to the armpit is a combination of flexion, lateral bending and slight rotation. This article will first discuss the ‘pure’ ranges of motion. Later, I will present stretches that may be targeted toward individual muscle groups that are often variations or combinations of these motions. As you become more comfortable with the stretch, you can slowly add gentle fingertip pressure to assist with the movement. See this video, for more clarification on the type of pressure I am referring to. A general rule of thumb: these stretches should not cause neck pain. An ache or a muscle pull sensation is fine, but discontinue if it creates sharp neck pain, stabbing, burning, electrical or unusual sensations or symptoms. This should be discussed with your health care provider to determine if the individual stretch is right for your condition. If you have neck pain after stretching, use an ice pack for twenty minutes to calm down any inflammation that may have been ‘stirred’ up. Ice may be repeated hourly until the soreness is reduced (Should I use Ice or Heat?).
Neck Flexion: Sitting tall with shoulders relaxed and back. Tuck chin into neck and then slowly bend head straight forward.
Neck Extension: Sitting tall with shoulders relaxed down and back. First perform a chin tuck/neck retraction then raise chin straight up to ceiling as far as comfortable.
Neck Lateral Bending: Sitting tall, grasp back edge of chair with hand of side to be stretched. Turn head toward that same side and lean head and body away to feel a stretch in the side of the neck.
Neck Rotation: Sitting tall with shoulders relaxed down and back. Turn head to one side as far as comfortable.
Remember, these stretches should be done very slowly and should never be forced. Generally, I recommend doing two repetitions of fifteen second holds, twice per day. Please contact myself or your health care provider if you have any questions. If there are stretches or muscle groups that you’d like to learn about for future articles, please comment below. To continue this series go to: Part 2 and Part 3.
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.