Exercises for Cervical Facet Joint Pain

The facet joints in the spine help you to move and twist. The cervical spine facet joints are located in the back and side of the neck. When you injure this area -- such as after experiencing whiplash -- you may feel pain not only in the neck, but also in the shoulders and arms. In addition to taking anti-inflammatory medications and using treatments like heat wraps to relieve cervical facet joint pain, you also can engage in regular stretching exercises to relieve muscle tension.

A man holds his neck and grimaces as if in pain.
Credit: Marjan_Apostolovic/iStock/Getty Images

Neck Rotation

The neck rotation stretch is especially effective in relieving cervical facet joint pain because it encourages range of motion in the neck. To perform, look straight ahead, then turn your head to your left side, stretching as far as you can to this side without pain. Focus on a target on the wall that can help you maintain the stretch for 20 seconds. Release the stretch, then repeat on this side for three times, trying to stretch a little further with each repetition. Turn to the right side to repeat the activity.

Forward/Backward Bending

When you have difficulty moving the neck, the ability to perform movements like nodding your head can be difficult. Backward and forward bending can help to relieve this neck muscle tension. Begin in a seated position, keeping your back straight and your focus forward. Pull the chin down toward the chest, feeling a stretch in the back of the head. Hold this position for five seconds, then look up toward the ceiling. Hold this position for five seconds, then repeat the exercise five times.

SCM Stretch

The sternocleidomastoid, or SCM, muscle connects the base of the head and jaw to the clavicle bone. If you experience cervical facet joint pain, particularly on the side of the neck, this stretch can help. Begin by leaning your head over, pretending you are trying to touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Now turn the chin up slightly toward the ceiling. You should feel a stretch in the side and front of the neck. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then release the stretch. Repeat on this side for two to three times, then switch to the opposite side.

Trapz Stretch

The trapz stretch stretches the trapezius muscle, which rests at the base of the neck. Start by leaning your head to the right, bringing your right ear toward your right shoulder. Now move the chin toward your chest, feeling a pull in the shoulder and back of the neck. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then release the stretch and raise your head. Repeat the stretch on this side for two to three repetitions, then switch to stretch to the opposite side.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Load Comments