As much as 10 percent of the population suffers from a pain in the neck at any one time, doctors at Up To Date for Patients report. Causes for neck pain vary widely and can range from arthritis or a pinched nerve to muscle strain or ligament sprain. Most neck pain can be resolved with simple exercises designed to relax the ligaments and muscles in the neck.
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It's important to maintain range of motion in the neck to keep it relaxed and pain-free. Unless you've been diagnosed with a pinched nerve, neck bending every day can keep the neck muscles loose. Neck bending should be performed in the morning upon waking and at the end of the day before retiring. Gently bend the neck by tilting your head forward until your chin touches your chest. Hold the position for a few seconds and take a deep breath. Slowly raise your head while exhaling and repeat 10 to 15 times.
Often the neck becomes tight when the shoulders are tense. To ease stiffness from taut shoulder muscles, try shoulder rolls that can be performed either sitting or standing. Press your arms against your sides with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Then squeeze your back shoulder blades together without moving your arms from your sides. Roll your shoulders backwards 15 to 20 times in this position and then reverse the moves and roll them forward.
The neck muscles and tendons need to be isolated to get the full benefit of relaxation exercises. When performing tilting exercises, try to hold your shoulders still and use only your neck muscles. Sitting or standing, turn your head to the right, hold for a few seconds and then turn it to the left. Stop for a few seconds before each turn and repeat 10 times on each side. Then tilt your head to one side, trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.
Heat can help relieve a stiff neck; doctors at the Pain Clinic advise patients to perform neck relaxation exercises while taking a hot shower. Let the water run over the back of your neck while you perform the pushing exercises that relax the muscles in the back of your neck. Tilt your head forward and place both hands on the back of your head. Push gently so that you can feel an extra tug going down the top of your spine. Hold the pose for about a minute without bouncing. Raise your head and then bend it to the right and lower it, pressing on the back of your head with your hands to feel additional stretching in other parts of the neck. You can then repeat this on the other side for another minute.