Hold for 10 seconds in each position 3 times each day, or when symptoms come on. Continue to use this exercise once a day after symptoms resolve to maintain neck mobility.
Tight neck muscles are very common in modern life. They can be associated with headaches, jaw dysfunction, and symptoms in the shoulder and upper back. Stretching may help to improve mobility and ease symptoms. This exercise can be done anywhere with minimal effort to relieve symptoms. However, stretching is usually a temporary relief technique, so you should also perform the strengthening exercises in this prescription for long-term relief.
Start in a seated or standing position with the hands clasped behind the back. Squeeze the shoulder blades back and down together, and push the hands towards the floor. This will pull one end of the upper shoulder muscles downward while you use your head to pull the other end into a stretched position.
Pull the chin back while looking straight ahead so that the head is not protruding out in front of the body. You can use the Head Retraction exercise available in the Neck prescription to practice this if you’re unfamiliar with the movement.
Then, tip the ear towards the shoulder to feel a stretch in the side of the neck. After holding this position for the 10 seconds, rotate the head to look down towards the pants pocket on the side you are tipping the head towards.
This will stretch the back of the neck. Finally, with the head still tipped to the side, lift the chin towards the ceiling to feel a stretch in the front of the throat and neck and around the collarbone.
Try breathing diaphragmatically in each position to intensify the stretch before transitioning to the other side. Practice the Standing Diaphragmatic Breathing exercise available in this prescription if you are unfamiliar with this.
• Not keeping the head tipped to the side. For a maximum stretch, keep the ear tipped towards the shoulder as you look down to the pocket and up to the ceiling.
• Releasing the shoulder blades and hands. Try to keep the shoulder blades squeezed and the hands pushed down during the stretch, as this will allow you to pull at the muscles from both ends.
• Tipping the entire body, rather than just the head. It is easy to tip the entire trunk to the side when tipping the head. This will decrease the effectiveness of the stretch. If you need to, perform this exercise in front of a mirror to make sure you are just tipping the head.
∙Stopping this exercise prematurely. If the neck is very stiff, you may not feel a stretch along the side the neck when first performing this exercise. Don’t stop the exercise just because you don’t feel a stretch. Keep performing the exercise with the technique shown in the video, and you will soon feel the muscles of the neck and throat stretching.
You can progress to the next exercise when you are able to hold this stretch for 10 seconds in each position, without tipping the trunk to one side.