The tension in your neck, back, and shoulders can be debilitating. It can cause headaches and make it hard to maneuver through everyday life, among other things. While a massage is a great solution, it can be expensive and time-consuming. The good news is there are several effective stretches you can do to help alleviate your pain.
Before learning the best stretches, it’s important that you know the proper stretching technique. When stretching, let your body relax and never try to force the stretches. Once you are in place, hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. Any less and the muscle won’t have time to properly relax. Now that that’s out of the way, here are the best five simple stretches you can do to alleviate a tight neck, shoulders, and back.
Basic Neck Stretch
If you find that your tension is mainly where your neck and shoulders meet, then this stretch is a good starting point.
- Stand up straight with your shoulders back and your feet at a hip-width distance.
- Tilt your head to the right so that your ear goes straight towards your shoulder.
- From behind your back, use your right hand to pull down on your left wrist. This movement will allow the muscle to fully extend.
- While continuing to pull down your left arm, try to move your head closer to your right shoulder until you feel the muscle fully stretched.
- After holding for at least 30 seconds (or longer if you still feel you are getting continued relief), repeat on the other side.
Forward Bend with a Twist
Gravity is your friend when it comes to stretching your neck. The best way to put it to work for you is by doing a forward bend. This stretch is ideal if you have tension right at the base of your skull and in your upper neck.
- Stand up and spread your legs out past your hips.
- Fold forward as far as you can, making sure to let your head hang freely like a rag doll. This allows gravity to pull down the neck muscles and relieve some tension.
- Now, put your left hand on the floor in between your legs.
- Stretch your right arm up to the ceiling as far as you can.
- Turn your head to look at your right hand. You will feel the resistance in your neck but, continue to hold it until the pain starts to subside.
- Repeat on the other side.
This popular yoga pose is simple to do, yet it is very effective at releasing shoulder tension.
- To do this pose, all you have to do is kneel down on the floor, with your bum touching your heels.
- Bend forward at your hips, with your arms reaching in front of you, your hands touching the floor, letting your forehead rest on the floor.
- Extend until you feel a good stretch in your upper back and hold.
Threaded Needle Stretch
If you feel the majority of your tension around your shoulder blades, this is the stretch for you.
- Start by getting on the floor on your hands and knees. Ensure that your knees and hips are aligned, and your wrists and shoulders are aligned.
- Lift up your right arm and turn outwards to reach towards the ceiling and then immediately bring the arm back down, under your belly, and over to the left side.
- At this point, the back of your right hand should be resting on the floor on the left side of your body. Push the right arm through until you feel a good stretch on your right shoulder blade. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Another yoga pose, the cat-cow is a highly effective way to release tension in your entire upper body.
- Begin on your hands and knees, making sure your knees and hips are aligned and your wrists and shoulders are aligned.
- Now bend your neck down like you are trying to look at your stomach while also curving your back up as much as you can. This is the cat part of the pose. Make sure you pull your head down enough that you feel the stretch going down the back of your neck.
- After holding that for 30 seconds, push your back down so that it curves upward while also stretching your neck up and looking up towards the ceiling. This is the cow part of the pose. Hold this for 30 seconds.
- Switch between the two poses as many times as you want, making sure you move your neck and back enough with each one to really feel the stretch.
Once you have completed these five stretches, you should feel an almost instant relief of your tension. Your muscles will feel looser, you will feel more mobile, and you should have less pain. These stretches can be repeated as many times as necessary until you feel the relief you need.
Valley Orthopaedic Specialists is a full-service orthopedic practice located in Shelton, Connecticut. Their specialists provide comprehensive care for all joints and muscles, including physical therapy, sports medicine, and orthopedic surgery.