Sitting at a computer all day, driving long distances and even sleeping in awkward positions can not only cause a stiff neck, but may promote forward neck posture. Forward neck posture is commonly seen in the elderly as shoulders stoop forward, taking the head along with it. Unfortunately, incorrect neck posture leads to tension, strain and pain in the shoulders and may cause cervical neck conditions, pinched nerves or arthritis, according to Neck Solutions. Learning a few simple exercises can promote proper neck alignment and posture.
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Neck Posture Check
To determine whether you have forward neck posture, stand with your back to a wall and your feet about six inches from the base of the wall. Place the back of your head and your hips against the wall. Lift your left or right hand and gauge the distance between the wall and the back of your neck. If the gap is less than two inches, your posture is adequate, according to Neck Solutions. If there are more than two inches of space, or if you have trouble touching the back of your head to the wall, you may need to correct your neck and shoulder posture.
Stand with your feet about shoulder distance apart, arms at your sides. Pull the shoulder blades together with a rolling motion of the shoulders, focusing on keeping your shoulders pressed downward and not hunching upward toward your ears. Rotate your palms outward at your hips, as if someone's going to place something on your open palm. Pull the chin back, not down, as if you're trying to touch the back of your head to an imaginary wall behind you. This exercise will help relieve neck strain and hunching. You can do this exercise for about 30 seconds several times a day.
Gentle Neck Roll
Keep the neck joints lubricated and help prevent pain and arthritic conditions by standing straight, as if a string is pulling the top of the back of your head up toward the ceiling, suggests Eric Normand at HowtoImproveYourPosture.com. Make several circles with the top of your head, gradually increasing the range of motion and circle diameter. Keep these circles gentle and slow. While circling the head, envision the string continuing to pull the head upward. This exercise does not require a large movement of the head, or twisting it forward or backward. The angle of the head at the side of the roll shouldn't be more than 45 degrees.
Neck Retraction Stretch
Stand with feet together and shoulders back and pressed downward. Pull your head toward the rear and tilt your chin slightly downward. Hold that contraction for about 10 seconds and then release. Repeat several times. This stretch will help strengthen the sternocleidomastoid, or major frontal neck muscle, and the splenius, the muscle that connects the back of the skull to the spinal column, thus offering more support for the head to maintain proper alignment.