Neck Stretches for a Strained Muscle

Neck strain often results from improper posture or overuse. If your job requires you to sit at a desk for many consecutive hours, and you fail to take frequent breaks to loosen up your muscles and joints, you may find yourself with a mild case of strain, leading to discomfort and limited range of motion in your head and neck. Targeted neck stretches can prevent, or ease, neck pain.

A man is learning to stretch his neck. (Image: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images)

Tips for Neck Stretches

Neck exercises are deceptively simple but they can make a profound difference in how you feel. When performed slowly and gently, targeted neck stretches may help relieve stiffness and discomfort and restore range of motion. Always stretch with caution, and if a particular stretch causes pain, pull back immediately. If you experience severe symptoms in conjunction with neck strain -- such as numbness or shooting pain in your shoulder or arm -- speak to your doctor.

Head Half-Rolls

Sit on a sturdy chair with your back straight, your hands in your lap and your head aligned with your spine. Press your shoulders downward and consciously relax your neck muscles as you drop your chin toward your chest. Hold briefly, then breathe deeply as you slowly and gently roll your head to the right until your ear lies over your right shoulder. Hold briefly, then roll your head downward and to the left. Continue the head roll from side to side four to six times. Return your head to an upright position and take large, relaxing breaths before repeating. Complete three to four sets. For maximum benefit, work slowly and deliberately, lengthening your neck as much as possible at every stage of the roll.

Shoulder Rolls

Sit in a sturdy chair with your feet on the floor in front of you and your back long. Rest your arms at your sides and relax your hands in your lap. Slowly press your shoulders forward, then circle them up and around to the back in large, smooth circles. Breathe slowly and steadily as you complete six to eight backward rotations. Rest briefly, then reverse the direction of your circles, working your way from the back to the front. Avoid jutting your chin forward throughout the exercise.

Supported Flexion

Lie on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor in front of you. Interlock your fingers and cradle your head with your hands. Apply gentle pressure to the back of your head, pulling it upward until you experience light tension along the back of your neck. Hold the stretch for five seconds, release your head to the floor slowly, then repeat the lift six to eight times.

Side Rotation

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, relax your arms and clasp your hands together behind you. Incline your shoulders backward slightly. Slowly and very gently turn your head to the right until you are looking directly over your right shoulder. Hold the stretch for five seconds, then face forward. Turn your head slowly to the left until you are looking directly over your left shoulder, hold for five seconds and face forward. Repeat the side-to-side rotation 10 to 15 times. Avoid dropping your chin forward or tilting your head backward as you rotate your head from right to left.

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