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Last week, we wrote about treatment options for neck pain and mentioned the value of chiropractic evaluations for posture and body mechanics, as well as for recommendations for stretches and exercises that can help with that sore neck. Today, we’re elaborating a bit on the topic of neck stretches versus neck exercises intended to strengthen those muscles. What’s the difference? And what’s the value of each? Let’s take a look.

Neck Stretches

These are simple movements you can perform at work, in a parked car, at the playground – you get the idea. As a culture, we tend to spend the majority of our time in a hunched forward position. Whether we’re driving, tapping on a computer, or using a mobile device, a tilted head position and a hunched posture is common. The good news? You can combat the negative impact of this posture with neck stretches.

Flexibility in any part of the body improves and preserves range of motion and elasticity, and this is no less true in the cervical, or neck, joints. Flexibility in the neck can offer relief from the stiffness that blooms into pain. And, again, just like flexibility anywhere, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes daily for stretching. Some neck stretches can even be done several times a day to relieve any tightness.

One of Dr. McSweeney’s go-to neck stretches looks like this:

Sit up straight. Turn your head and lean your nose toward your right underarm. With your right hand on the crown of your head, gently pull down toward your underarm. Hold this pose for a few seconds, breathing evenly, and then repeat on the other side.

The clasping neck stretch is another effective neck stretch. You can perform it like this:

From a seated position in a chair or on the floor, clasp your hands and bring your palms to the back of your head. Sit up straight and then slowly tuck your chin toward your chest, bringing your elbows forward and using the heels of your palms to gently pull your head away from your shoulders. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then lift your head slowly and release your hands.
Neck Strengthening

You can treat stiffness and pain with stretches, but you can help reduce those unwelcome sensations altogether with neck exercises. They’ll help you maintain better posture, which helps lessen flare ups of that sore neck. Unlike neck stretches, you should perform neck strengthening movements every other day.

You don’t need weights for these exercises – the pressure of your own hand will be enough.

  • Exercise 1: Stand up straight, and place your palm against your temple. Press gently and steadily against your palm for a count of ten, then release. Repeat for another two sets, then switch sides.
  • Exercise 2: Stand up straight, placing both palms against your forehead. Press gently and steadily against your hands for a count of ten, then release. Repeat for another two sets. Then, clasp your hands together and bring them behind your head. Press gently and steadily against them for a ten count, then release. Repeat for two sets.
  • Exercise 3: Stand up straight, then tuck your chin down and back to create a double or triple chin. Hold for a few counts, then release. Repeat for another two sets.

Incorporating these movements and stretches into your health and wellness program will make a big difference. If you’re struggling with neck pain, a consultation with Dr. McSweeney may be just what you need. She’ll assess your condition, show you more exercises and stretches, and offer recommendations for treatment. Learn more about your first visit here, and schedule an appointment today.