Neck stiffness is a frequent side effect of modern life. The National Health Service reports that sitting at a desk for long periods, poor posture and stress as common causes of neck pain and stiffness. Gentle stretching exercises can help relieve tension and restore range of motion, allowing you to continue your daily activities without pain.
Stretch your neck while standing in a corner and get the added benefit of stretching your chest and shoulders. Face the corner and extend your arms in a goal-post position, with your elbows bent and your upper arms at shoulder height. Place one forearm on each wall and lean forward, lowering your elbows one to two inches below shoulder height if it feels more comfortable. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, breathing slowly and deeply.
Front and Side Stretch
Stretch the back of your neck by lowering your chin to your chest while standing. Roll your shoulders down and back, relaxing any tension. To deepen the stretch, place one hand on the back of your head and gently push down. After holding this stretch for 30 seconds, bring your head back to the upright position. Lower your right ear to your right shoulder without bringing your shoulder up to meet your ear. To deepen the stretch, place the palm of your right hand on the left side of your head and push down gently. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Use a yoga blanket or large bath towel to help release your neck. Roll the blanket into a cylinder, lie on the floor and place it horizontally behind your neck, between the bottom of your skull and the tops of your shoulder blades. Bend your knees and elbows and rest the palms of your hands on your forehead, with your fingers pointing toward the top of your head. Bring your elbows together. Inhale and exhale deeply. With each exhalation, relax your shoulders more and expand the distance between your head and your shoulder blades. Lie on the blanket for as long as needed. After you remove the blanket, lie on your back for a moment before getting up.
When to See a Doctor
Some neck pain can't be eliminated with stretching. Medical conditions that can cause neck pain and stiffness include torticollis, arthritis and radiculopathy. If your neck is locked or you feel a pins-and-needles sensation, or if your stiff neck lasts for more than 48 hours, visit your doctor for diagnosis and treatment options. If your neck pain occurs immediately after injury, consult a physician right away to prevent exacerbating the damage and increasing the stiffness.