With a majority of people working from home during this time, non-traditional work environments — coupled with stress — may make neck muscles more prone to tension. Feelings of anxiety can manifest as neck tension as you tend to create holding patterns in those muscles (hiking those shoulders up to your ears… yikes!). Lucky for you, we dug into the research to arm you with the best neck stretches that will help dissolve stress and tension once and for all. Scroll on for the info.
First Things First, Why Are Neck Stretches So Important?
Tense neck muscles, headaches/migraines and overall decreased quality of life tend to coexist. Take it from this study, which noted that people with migraines and coexisting tension-type headaches and neck pains had lower levels of physical activity and psychological well-being, a higher level of perceived stress and poorer self-rated health compared to healthy controls.
In addition, when you have neck strain or pain, you tend to alter the way you move in daily life, which can result in an awkward posture, range of motion and overcompensation with other muscles. This puts individuals at risk for repetitive motion disorders, which are a group of muscular disorders characterized by repetitive or awkward motions that aren’t natural and result in loss of flexibility and strength, among other factors.
Bottom line: Neck stretching can help improve the quality of life by alleviating physical tension (and the mental tension that tends to accompany it).
How Often Should You Do Neck Stretches?
It’s best to complete these daily in order to prevent any further strain, as well as keep the tension under control. If you can, tie them into a routine (before bed while you are winding down, first thing before work, etc), to ensure success. Work on holding poses 15-30 seconds as tolerated and aim for going through them 3-5 times. In the end, as long as you are stretching, it’s going to help you dissolve some degree of tension.
5 Types of Neck Stretches To Try
1. Rotation stretch: Stand upright with shoulder blades retracted (back and down). Slowly lower your right ear to your right shoulder and stop when you feel a stretch on the left side of your neck. Bring your head back to midline and repeat by lowering your left ear to your left shoulder to elicit a stretch on the right side of your neck.
2. Flexion and extension neck stretch: Stand upright with shoulder blades retracted (back and down). Slowly lower your head forward with your chin coming toward your chest for the flexed position. Come back up to neutral and then lower your head back into an extended position with your chin pointing towards the ceiling.
3. Standing forward bend: Plant feet hip-width apart and slowly hinge at your hips. Allow your head and neck to hang forward and allow gravity to pull them towards the ground. Let your arms dangle in an extended position, bring your palms to the ground or fold your arms.
4. Child’s pose: Sit back so that your glutes are resting on your heels. Slowly slide your arms forward on the floor out in front of you so that they are both in elbow and shoulder extension. Your forehead should touch the floor as your chest rests on or between your thighs depending on how wide you position your legs.
5. Cat cow pose: Start in a quadruped position (all fours) with a flat back and neutral neck. Start by exhaling into the “cat” portion where you lift your spine to the sky and allow your head to flex and come towards your chest. For the “cow” portion of the pose, extend your neck up to the sky and allow your belly to drop as your shoulder blades pull together.
Note: We recommend discussing your health goals with your licensed healthcare professional. They can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.