The way we live in our modern society is a literal pain in the neck. At least thirteen percent of Americans suffer from some kind of neck pain on any given day. If you’ve ever suffered from neck pain, you understand how impossible it is to get things done when every tilt and turn of your head sends a jolt down your spine.
So, how can you combat this without booking an appointment with a surgeon, massage therapist, or doctor? Simple: With neck stretches that you can do anywhere, some even at your work desk!
What are the best neck stretches to help you manage neck and back pain? Here’s what you need to know.
How to Stretch Your Neck at Your Desk
The place where you’ll most often experience neck pain is at your work desk. The standard posture we hold at a computer and the lack of ergonomic seating can cause the bulk of our neck and upper back pain. So, if you’re still on the clock and need a moment of sweet relief, consider doing the following neck stretches at your desk:
Forward and Back Again
One of the easiest neck stretches you can do at your desk is to tilt your head forward and back. Make sure you straighten up and center yourself before you begin. Then, gently tilt your head down towards your chest like you’re dosing off. Hold that position for around thirty seconds, then slowly move back to a neutral position.
After that, tilt your head back like you’re examining the pattern on the ceiling, holding it there for about ten seconds. Once that’s done, move your head back to a neutral position. Repeat these motions a few times, and keep them smooth and unhurried.
The Confused Puppy Dog
This rather cheeky name refers to a stretch that looks like a dog confused by something it just saw. It’s recommended to do this standing, but you can do it seated as well. Tilt your head towards your right shoulder, stopping when you feel the stretch in your neck. Do not raise your shoulder to meet your head.
Hold that pose for about ten seconds, then glide back to a neutral position. Afterward, repeat the stretch on the left shoulder. You can do this up to ten times, maximum. If you want more of a stretch, press lightly on your tilted head with your fingertips on the same side of the stretch.
The Owl Turn
If you’ve ever seen an owl turn its head around as if on a pivot, you have an idea what this stretch might look like. Keep your head facing straight forward, no tilting. Then swivel it to the right until you feel a neck and shoulder stretch. Hold it for about thirty seconds, then return to neutral and repeat the stretch on the left side.
Like the puppy dog head tilt, you can do this stretch up to ten times.
Best Stretches and Yoga Poses for Neck Pain
Now, if you’re not at work (or on break), and need relief from your neck pain, certain yoga stretches are extremely effective at releasing tension from your neck muscles. Yoga’s been an integral part of pain relief for years and is finally receiving the scientific backing it deserves.
What are the best yoga poses for neck pain, and how can you do them? Here are a few examples:
Cow to Cat Pose
To start this stretch, you want to begin in what’s called a table-top pose. This means resting on your hands and knees with fingers aligned with your shoulders and pointing forward. Then, inhale and let your stomach drop towards the mat or floor, lifting your chin and chest while gazing up at the heavens. This is the first position, cow pose.
After that, exhale, look down, and arch your back up towards the ceiling like a startled cat. (Not as fast, of course.) Swap slowly between these two poses around three to five times.
Child to Rabbit Pose
First, kneel down and inhale. As you exhale, let your butt come to rest on your heels as your arm stretches forward. Then, bring your arms to rest on the ground alongside your body as your forehead rests on the mat. Your stomach should rest between your thighs. You can stop here and rest in child’s pose for a few minutes to stretch out.
If you feel like you need more of a stretch, then grab onto your heels with your hands. Lift your hips to the heavens as you gently roll your head forward from the forehead to the crown on an inhale. Afterward, exhale and roll yourself back to your starting position.
What to Do If Stretching Doesn’t Work
If you’ve tried all manner of neck stretches for your pain and none of them have worked for you, what are your options? While this is unfortunate, there are a few solutions you can pursue, which include:
- Pressure or massage therapy
- Painkillers, either natural or prescribed
- Heat or ice therapy
- Seek proper neck and back support for your bed
- In severe cases, neck surgery
Depending on the specific cause of your neck pain, stretches may or may not work for you. So, if you’ve given our recommended neck stretches a try and they haven’t worked, don’t sweat it. Your specific type of pain may require a different sort of intervention to treat.
Let’s Review How Neck Stretches Can Help You
Dealing with neck pain is a frustrating thing that neck stretches can go a long way towards treating. While not all of these stretches are practical for the workplace, the few that you can do at your desk can provide some much-needed relief.