What a Pain in the Neck Stretches to Keep Your Head Held High

For most people, the neck is a lightning rod for stress. Traffic, job issues, cranky children — it's amazing that the tension created by frustrations such as these are stored in that tiny little area above your shoulders and below your head. The movement of the head and neck is very complex and involves many muscles working together. To keep it simple, focus on four of those muscles: Upper trapezius (truh-pee-zee-uhs), sternocleidomastoid (stur-noh-klahy-duh-mas-toid), scalenes (skey-leens), and levator scapula (li-vey-ter s&ap-yuh-luh). These are the muscles that, when not taken care of, literally become a pain in the neck.

Regularly stretching the muscles of your neck can reduce pain and tightness that if left unchecked can lead to headaches, chronic stiffness, limited range of motion, and even carpal tunnel syndrome. The stretches in this section may even prevent pain altogether.

Lateral head tilt

The lateral head tilt stretches the muscles that run along the sides of your neck: anterior, middle, and posterior scalenes. These muscles attach to the upper rib cage, so to get an effective stretch, you have to anchor your shoulder blades down as you tilt your head to the side.

To do this stretch, follow these steps:

1. Inhale as you lift your shoulders up to your ears with your arms straight down at your sides.

2. Exhale and lower your shoulders and anchor your shoulder blades in place to provide a firm foundation for the stretch.

3. Tilt your head to the left side, moving your left ear toward your left shoulder (see Figure 4-2), being very careful not to lift your right shoulder.

Imagine that you're holding a very heavy book in your hand as you tilt your head to the opposite side. This thought may help you keep your right shoulder down and allow you to feel the stretch more.

4. Hold the stretch for two or three deep breaths and then lift your head back to center.

5. Inhale as you lift your shoulders again; exhale as you lower your shoulders.

6. Repeat the stretch on the right side.

Figure 4-2:

The lateral head tilt includes the shoulder shrug and side neck stretch.

Figure 4-2:

The lateral head tilt includes the shoulder shrug and side neck stretch.

A few do's and don'ts for this stretch:

1 Do be aware of your muscles in your upper back holding your shoulder down. 1 Do breathe as you hold the stretch. i Do sit or stand up tall as you hold the stretch. i Don't tilt from your waist.

i Don't let your opposite shoulder lift as you tilt your head.

Neck rotation with tilt

Doing this stretch can be effective for immediate pain control and also, if done consistently, can actually help prevent pain in the future because it targets the trapezius — the main culprit in stress headaches!

This stretch can be done sitting or standing, but just remember that to effectively stretch this area you must anchor your shoulder blades or keep them still to provide a solid foundation for the stretch.

To do this stretch, follow these steps:

1. Find a stable, flat chair that you can sit comfortably in and position yourself in an upright, military-type posture.

2. Slowly rotate your head to the right approximately 45 degrees and slowly lean forward and drop your head slightly (see Figure 4-3).

You should begin to feel tension build lightly over the right shoulder and neck.

3. Hold this position, maintaining the light to medium stretch for at least one full minute.

4. Repeat on the other side by simply reversing the above instructions.

i Do hold your shoulders down while you tilt your head to the side. i Do sit up or stand up tall as you hold the stretch. 1 Don't let your shoulders round forward as you drop your head. 1 Don't yank or force the stretch.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment