7 Simple Stretches to Relieve Neck and Shoulder Tension

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Whether it's typing on the computer or scrolling on a phone, we seem to spend most of our time with our shoulders rounded, head craned and back hunched. And if you've been feeling tightness in your neck and shoulders, your posture is probably the culprit.

Sitting with poor posture is a common cause of neck and shoulder tension.
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"Holding [bad] posture for long periods of time forces the body to adapt to the new shape, making some muscles shorter in length and tighter, and others longer and weaker,"says April Whitney, certified personal trainer. "This creates muscle imbalances, which can lead to discomfort and pain and can continue chronically until the postural alignment is corrected."

Instead of letting your knots fester, pause for a few moments throughout the day and give these simple stretches a try. Hold each stretch or movement for 30 seconds and don't forget to switch sides as needed.

1. Neck Flexion Stretch

  1. Stand or sit with your back flat and arms at your sides.
  2. Take a deep inhale.
  3. Then exhale as you slowly lower your chin down toward your chest, feeling a gentle stretch in the back of your neck.
  4. Take a few deep breaths here.
  5. Then, raise your head back up.

2. Neck Rolls

  1. Begin seated or standing.
  2. On an exhale, lower your chin toward your chest.
  3. Take another breath and slowly roll your chin up toward your left shoulder.
  4. Inhale again and move the chin across the chest and up to the right shoulder.
  5. Continue rolling the neck shoulder to shoulder slowly, gradually increasing the range of motion.

3. Shoulder Rolls

  1. Sit or stand with your shoulders away from the ears.
  2. Inhale and raise your shoulders up toward the ears.
  3. Then roll your shoulders back behind the ears, down, then back up.
  4. Continue moving your shoulders in circles, switching directions after several counts.

4. Shoulder Shrugs

  1. Begin standing or sitting with your back flat and arms at your sides or in your lap.
  2. On an inhale, raise your shoulders up toward your ears in a shrugging motion.
  3. Hold here for a few moments.
  4. Then, on an exhale, release the shoulders back to the starting position.

5. Upper Trapezius Stretch

  1. Sit up in a chair with your back flat, arms at your sides.
  2. Gently grip the right side of the chair with you right hand.
  3. Slowly tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder.
  4. Then, slowly turn your head to the right and look toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch along the right side of your neck.
  5. Hold this stretch for a few deep breaths and repeat as needed, switching sides.

Tip

If you don't feel this neck and shoulder stretch, place your left hand on top of your head to add gentle pressure into the stretch, pulling your head toward the left shoulder.

6. Door Stretch

  1. Stand in an open, narrow doorframe. Stagger your feet to improve your balance with your left foot in front of the right.
  2. Grip the sides of the doorframe at shoulder height.
  3. Slowly lean through the doorframe until you feel a stretch across the front of your chest and shoulders.
  4. Hold here for several deep breaths and repeat as needed.

7. Scalene Stretch

  1. Sit in a chair with your back flat, arms at your sides.
  2. Gently grip the right side of the chair with you right hand.
  3. Tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder.
  4. Then, reach your left hand across the body, placing it on top of your right collarbone.
  5. Gently and gradually press down onto the right collarbone and shoulder to increase the stretch.
  6. Hold this stretch for a few deep breaths and repeat as needed, switching sides.

Tip

"For any neck stretch, the position of the shoulders is critical: Make sure you roll the shoulders back and keep them away from your ears with the chest lifted," Whitney says.

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