If you spend a large amount of time sitting in a fixed position, such as in front of a computer, reading or writing, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) and Pinto Chiropractic & Rehabilitation recommends you take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour to keep your neck pliable. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion. Below are 6 simple stretches you can do anywhere to help prevent and alleviate neck stiffness, pain and headaches.
Start with head in a neutral position, gaze forward. Relax the shoulders. Inhale deeply and as you exhale turn your head to the right as far as you can without straining. Hold for 15 seconds and return to neutral. Repeat on the left side. Alternate sides 2-3 times.
Basic neck stretch
Take a deep breath, relax the shoulders and place hands by your sides. Slowly lower your right ear towards the right shoulder. Breathe deeply without straining; the weight of your head will do the work. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on left side. For a deeper stretch, place your opposite hand on your head and gently pull your head closer to your shoulder. Alternate sides 2-3 times.
Relax the shoulders and fix your gaze straight ahead. Inhale deeply and as you exhale drop the chin to the chest and allow the weight of your head to stretch the back of the neck. For a deeper stretch, place your hands on the back of your head to gently pull the head down further to the chest. Hold for 30 seconds.
Diagonal neck stretch
Turn your head slightly to the right and bring your chin to your chest, turning the head diagonally towards your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. For a deeper stretch, use your hand to gently pull the head inwards. Alternate sides 2-3 times.
Anterior neck stretch
Lift your gaze and gently extend your neck forward to bring the back of your head closer to your upper back. Press on your forehead to deepen the stretch, holding for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.
Tuck-in neck stretch
Begin with your chin slightly jutted out, place your index finger on your chin and push it back, as if you’re trying to narrow the space between your chin and the back of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds and release. Repeat 2-3 times.
Now that you’re loosened up, perform 5-10 neck rolls in each direction. Begin with head in a neutral position, shoulders relaxed. Drop your chin to your chest and begin to roll the head over the right shoulder, slowly completing a “clock” pattern and ending back in the chin to chest position. After 5-10 reps, switch and roll to the left.