Simple Physical Therapy Stretches for Neck Pain

Physical Therapy, Workout Injuries


Neck pain can be anything from annoying to fully debilitating. Luckily, there are some simple stretches that can make your neck pain go away.

Occasional neck pain is nothing serious. It’s quite common to wake up with a stiff neck after sleeping in an awkward position, for instance. Luckily, with rest or hot/cold therapy, that pain usually goes away in a day.

Yet sometimes the neck pain never seems to go away and it can even make daily life miserable, or at least more complicated. The pain can be anything from a constant dull ache or a sharp pain. Your neck muscles may spasm and you may even experience headaches. If that’s the case, your neck pain could be caused by a number of things. A physical therapist can diagnose the source of your neck pain, and prescribe a physical therapy program of simple stretches to target that root cause. Let’s look at what could be causing your neck pain and what you can do to ease the pain.

What’s causing the pain in your neck

Your cervical spine, more commonly referred to as your neck, connects your skull to your upper torso. The cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae cushioned by discs. Attached to the discs are ligaments and muscles that give the neck its ability to rotate. When those muscles, ligaments, or discs are strained for whatever reason, you’ll definitely feel a pain in your neck.

A range of factors may be behind your neck pain. Hunching over a computer or smartphone for long periods can stress the neck muscles and lead to what is known as tech neck. Symptoms of tech neck include a stiff neck and pain between your shoulder blades.

Neck pain can also result from:

  • Injuring your neck in a sporting activity or when lifting a heavy object
  • A car accident or severe fall that wrenches the neck muscles and cervical spine
  • A herniated or bulging disc
  • Degenerative conditions, such as arthritis, that often affect the discs of the neck, leading to chronic neck pain

If your neck pain lasts for weeks, you’ll need a definitive diagnosis to determine the best path forward. An X-ray, MRI, or an electromyography can provide a clearer picture of what’s going on in the muscles and nerves of the neck. Then it’s on to finding ways to relieve your neck pain.

Relieving your neck pain with simple stretches

Depending on what’s causing your neck pain, your doctor may prescribe physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, epidural injections, or nerve blocks to help you feel better. Surgery is rarely recommended for neck pain.

If your neck pain is due to sitting at your computer all day, then make sure your computer is eye level so you’re not leaning forward to view the screen. To avoid staying in the same position, get up from your desk and move around. Changing your posture from time to time can relieve the strain on your neck muscles. And if you find yourself spending too much time on your computer or smartphone, take a break from tech.

You can also unlock your stiff, aching neck with some simple stretches. These four exercises can be done at home. Some can even be done at your desk.

Chin tuck. Tuck in your chin while you keep your chest elevated. Hold for five to ten seconds, and repeat for five to ten times. Aim to do this exercise one to two times a day

Upward facing dog. Lie face down on the floor, extending your legs behind you with your hands at your sides. Slowly lift your torso off the ground, making sure to keep your shoulders above your wrists, pushing off with your hands. Then, curve your chest toward the ceiling and tilt your head back. Look to the left as you squeeze your right glute and press your right hip to the floor. Switch to the other side, and do ten repetitions on each side.

Shoulder blade squeeze. Squeeze your shoulder blades. Then try to move them down to your waist.

Seated upper back extension stretch. You can do this exercise in an office chair. Sit up straight in your chair with your feet on the floor and shoulders back and down. Place your hands behind your head and curve your upper back over the chair. Hold for five to ten seconds, and repeat five to ten times during the day.

You don’t have to live with neck pain

At All Sports Physical Therapy, we believe no one should live with neck pain. We’ll use our expertise to diagnose what’s causing our pain and determine how best to relieve it with a tailored physical therapy program. Contact us today for a consultation.

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