The cervical spine allows you to move your head up and down as well as left and right, and is vulnerable to injury due to the small size of the vertebrae and its large range of motion. Pain in this area of the neck can also be due to poor posture and weak muscles. If your job requires you to sit at a desk all day, cervical pain can be exacerbated. Simple stretches may help decrease poor posture and neck pain.
Stretching exercises can be done several times throughout the day. Since your cervical spine is a sensitive area to stretch, you should take care to perform stretches slowly and in a controlled manner. Do not force the stretch to the point of pain; stretching should bring relief. Try to hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds in a static position.
Flexion and Extension
Cervical flexion and extension stretches may offer your spine and muscles some relief. Flexion involves a movement to look down at your toes. Extension occurs when you move your head up to look at the ceiling. Both exercises should be done in a pain free range, in a slow and controlled manner. Perform these two stretches alternately and hold for 20 seconds.
A lateral flexion stretch occurs when you move your head to one side. Be sure to start this exercise with good posture and relaxed shoulders. Slowly and in a controlled manner, move your head to one side so that your ear approaches your shoulder. Do not move your shoulder up to meet your ear, simple go as far as you feel comfortable. Hold this position, then return to upright and perform the same stretch on the other side, remembering to stick to a pain free range of movement.
Begin this exercise with a straight back and relaxed shoulders. Slowly rotate your head as if you are trying to see over your shoulder. Only go as far as you feel comfortable. Hold the stretch, breathing evenly, then return to start and repeat on the other side.
Health Care Consultations
These stretches are perfect for mild to moderate neck pain that occurs on occasion. If you feel your neck pain worsening or have symptoms of radiating pain down your arm, it may be time to see your doctor. He can offer you other treatments or refer you to a specialist, such as a physical therapist. A physical therapist will develop an individualized program to help reduce your neck pain.
- Foundations of Athletic Training; Marcia K. Anderson, et al
- Exercise Testing and Prescription; David C. Nieman
- Harvard Medical School Health Publications: Chronic Neck Pain Relief