At times a minor injury, like a muscle strain or ligament sprain, can cause a stiff neck. The neck stiffness can often lead to painful flare-ups. Though minimizing painful movements and giving some rest to a stiff neck is good, it is also essential to keep the neck moving to avoid further stiffening.
Stretches For Neck Pain & Stiff Neck
This article explains four easy stretches to treat neck stiffness & neck pain. They also help in improving neck flexibility and function. Whereas some of these stretches may feel good and help decrease stiffness and pain, others may not. If a particular stretch increases pain, immediately stop doing it and try a different stretch.
Neck Extension (Backward Bending)
While keeping your shoulders and back stationary, slowly extend your neck by looking upward and bringing the head backward. Once the head has gone back as far as you can without increasing pain, try to hold the stretch for five seconds before returning your head to the neutral (starting) position.
During neck extension, the stretch occurs along the front of the neck through the throat. In addition, the muscles working at the back of the neck are also stretched from the base of the skull all the way down to the upper back.
Neck Flexion (Forward Bending)
While only moving the head, slowly lower your chin toward your chest and look downward. Once your head has been flexed forward as far as you can comfortably, hold the stretch for five seconds before returning to the neutral (starting) position.
You can feel the neck flexion stretch throughout the back of the neck.
Lateral Neck Flexion (Bending Side to Side)
Gently bend your head and bring your left ear toward your left shoulder. Keep your shoulders and back stationary during the stretch; only flex your neck laterally to the side. Once you have flexed your head to the side as far as you can comfortably, try to hold the stretch for five seconds before returning your head to the neutral (starting) position. Now repeat the stretch in the opposite direction.
When you laterally flex your neck by bending your head toward the left shoulder, you will feel the stretch along the right side of the neck and vice versa.
Neck Turning Side to Side
Keeping your shoulders and back straight and stationary, slowly turn your head to the left as far as you can comfortably go without increasing pain. Once your head reaches its rotation limit, hold the stretch for five seconds before bringing it back to the neutral (starting) position. Now repeat the stretch in the opposite direction.
Of all the above stiff neck stretches, rotation is often the most challenging, particularly on one side or the other. Therefore, it is suggested to only rotate the neck only until a point that you can do without increasing pain.
Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your shoulders and back straight and stationary, and allow your arms to hang down at the sides. Tilt your head back. Next, slowly rotate your neck to the right. Gaze over your shoulder. To deepen the movement, gently press in your chin. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds. Switch the sides and reverse the movement. Do each side 3 to 4 times.
How Often to Perform Neck Stretches?
For an acute stiff neck that is especially painful and hard to move, it makes sense to try each of these stretches once, only then giving it a rest. These stretches could then be tried again the next day or even a few hours later.
As these stretches begin to feel more comfortable, you may increase the duration may be increased. For example, by holding the stretch positions for up to 20 seconds or doing multiple sets. At each step, remember that your goal is to improve neck flexibility and function, not increase pain.
After the initial neck stiffness and pain have been decreased, a more involved regime of neck stretching and strengthening might be practiced long-term to cut down the risk of having the pain return.
When to Seek Medical Attention?
You must consult your doctor if neck stiffness or pain does not begin to get better within a few days.
Also, if an individual has a history of serious medical conditions, it is advisable to consult a doctor before starting exercises.
Further, seek medical attention immediately if a stiff neck is accompanied by a severe headache, arm tingling, dizziness, weakness, nausea, fever, or other troubling symptoms.
About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq – Best Fitness Guru, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, the USA, obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me, age is just a number!”