Pain and stiffness can significantly reduce your neck’s range of motion. Although a decreased range of motion in your neck may not seem like a major problem, it can actually contribute to a number of unpleasant conditions, including headache, fatigue, irritability and sleep loss. Like any other part of the body, our neck can become stronger and more flexible through exercise. Following are some useful exercises that can help to increase the range of motion in your neck.
All these exercises should be done while sitting comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your neck in a neutral position. Your neck should be positioned right above your spine (in other words, be sure your head is not jutting forward or back), and you should be looking straight ahead. If you feel pain (rather than just discomfort) while doing any of these exercises, stop immediately and do not resume them until you have consulted with Dr. Ratio.
1) Neck rotations – Keeping your head level, gradually turn your head to the right as far as you comfortably can, looking over your right shoulder, and hold for 10 seconds. Then slowly turn your head to the left, looking over your left shoulder, and hold for another 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
2) Neck tilts – Tilt your head to the right, bringing your right ear as close to your shoulder as possible, and hold for 10 seconds. Do the same on the other side, tilting your head to the left, again holding for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
3) Neck flexion and extension – This is simply bending your head forward and back. Beginning in a neutral position, gradually bend your head forward, letting it hang with your chin close to your chest, and hold for 10 seconds. Then slowly bring your head up and back so that you are looking at the ceiling. Repeat 5 times.
4) Half circles – Start by tilting your head toward your right shoulder as far as possible, then slowly swing it to the left in a fluid half-circle, moving your head forward and down until your chin is close to your chest, continuing until your head is tilted to the left with your left ear above your left shoulder. Then repeat the movement in the other direction.
5) Levator scapulae stretch – Tilting your head to the right over your shoulder, turn and drop your head slightly so that your nose is pointed toward your elbow, and hold for 10 seconds. You should feel the stretch in the muscle connecting the back of the left lower neck to your shoulder blade. Repeat on the other side.