With poor posture, weak muscles, overuse of technology, and stress, it comes as no surprise that so many people suffer from neck pain. This type of pain can make everyday activities difficult to accomplish. Fortunately, there are a variety of exercises that can help you reduce neck pain and possibly even prevent it.
Proven pain relief techniques
All too often, people who experience neck pain once, tend to experience it again. Some of the most frequent sufferers are people who work in offices and spend their days sitting at their desks working on computers. In a study published in the BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine, office workers with neck pain and low back pain were recruited for a controlled exercise program. The recruits could not have had recent bouts of whiplash or other acute neck injuries.
The results of the exercise program called Fustra20 Neck & Back which was designed in Finland proved to relieve neck pain, but not back pain. The exercise program was designed to improve posture while increasing range of motion, flexibility, strength, and stability in the neck and shoulders.
Three exercises to strengthen and stabilize the neck
To help stabilize, stretch, and strengthen, lay in a supine posture (on your back). For the full benefits, you will need a yardstick, exercise band, or something similar, as well as a yoga block to hold between your knees. For all of these the block goes between the knees, if the knees are bent, or between the feet, if the legs are extended.
For the first exercise, bend the knees and bend the elbows, with the backs of the arms on the floor. Hold the yardstick or exercise band in both hands. Then, extend the arms straight. Bring them back to a bent, cactus-like shape and repeat at a comfortable pace for 90 seconds.
For the second exercise, remain supine with the knees bent and a yoga block between them. Raise the hands up into a wide Y shape. Bring them together, then separate them again. Focus on your shoulder blades as you move through the exercise. Repeat at a comfortable pace for 90 seconds while keeping the elbows straight.
Another exercise is the butterfly lift. For this exercise, lay on your belly. Extend your arms out to the side. Squeeze the legs together and leave them straight with the toenails pressing into the ground. Once you are stable, lift the head and shoulders. These three exercises are part of the Fustra20 and should help relieve neck pain.
Neck stabilization exercises
In another study, this one published by Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, researchers looked at three groups of people suffering from neck pain. They were placed into groups with different therapies paired with physical therapy. The group that saw the most relief was the one that paired physical therapy with neck stabilization exercises.
There are several easy neck stabilization exercises that require very little effort. The first is a supine retraction exercise. For this exercise, lay on your back, then tuck your chin as tightly as possible into your chest. You can use your fingers to help guide the chin. The back of the neck should stretch. Repeat at least eight times. You can do the same exercise while sitting or standing and can be done several times throughout the day. Eventually, you should notice that your head moves farther back as you continue to repeat the exercise.
An isometric stretch can also stabilize the neck. In a seated position, position your head in a neutral posture. Put your hand on your forehead. Push your head into your hand and push back with your hand. Hold for up to 10 seconds and repeat up to three times. Repeat this same exercise, moving your hand to the back of your head, to the left side, and to the right side. Be sure to relax between repetitions.
Exercises recommended by chiropractors
Two exercises can be done while standing. The first is a simple head rotation, where the head begins in a neutral position. Then, slowly turn the head to the right and hold for a few seconds. Slowly move the head to the left and hold. This should be done twice daily.
The other standing exercise is the shoulder retraction. While standing, hold the head in a neutral posture. Lift the check and pull the shoulder back. Focus on squeezing the scapula together. Begin with a 10-second hold and work up to 30 seconds. Repeat five times and do this exercise as needed, but at least twice through the day. Some people like to use resistance bands for pull ups across the chest to add a strengthening option to the exercise.
Then, lay supine with the knees bent. Rest the back of the head on the floor in a neutral position. Keep the arms long across the side of the body and leave them resting on the floor. One you are stabilized, lift the head and neck, tucking the chin firmly into the chest. Hold up to five seconds. Then, lower the head. Repeat up to 10 times twice daily.
Movement provides the most relief
Instead of resting the neck, studies, like the one published in the British Journal of General Practice, have shown that acute neck pain is best treated with movement. By adding simple neck exercises into your daily routine, you might not be able to guarantee a life free of neck pain; but, you will be able to relieve any pain that you might experience. Repeated studies have found that simple neck exercises that stabilize, strengthen, and stretch the neck relieve more pain that simply waiting and seeing, immobilizing the neck, and avoiding movement.
Of course, if you have any type of chronic neck pain, you should visit your health care provider. If the acute neck pain is recurrent, it is also a good idea to see your health care provider.