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Exercise Resources


Published August 5, 2019

Stiff neck from sitting at the desk too long? These are some great exercises for stretching the neck, upper trapezius and levator scapulae. The best thing is that you can do these wherever you are, whether at the office or at home.

Whether you’ve been driving all day and need to stretch out after spending hours on the road or you’re on your lunch break at work and feel your neck is getting tight, you’re probably wondering what you can do right now to help. Before relying on painkillers, there are a number of really useful exercises to try which may help. Often, getting used to a few exercises can keep our medication needs way down.

3 Simple Neck Stretches For Neck Pain

When people complain about neck pain, they rarely know exactly which muscles to target in exercises – all they know is that it needs to be loosened somehow. The exercises below target specific regions of the neck that are typical culprits when it comes to neck stiffness and pain.

1. ‘Upper Trapezius Stretch’

Relax – you don’t need to get up against a wall for these – you can even do them sitting down at your desk.

  • Place one hand behind you on your opposite buttocks.
  • Place your other hand on the top of your head.
  • Gently tilt your ear down to your shoulder. Rest here for about 30 seconds and breathe.
  • Repeat with the opposite hands and side.

2. ‘Levator Scapulae’

If you’ve been hunched over the screen all day this stretch is bound to feel good. It’s targeting the muscle that comes up the side of the neck.

  • Start by pointing your elbow to the ceiling and resting your hand on your shoulder blades. Lean this elbow against the wall as high as you feel comfortable.
  • Using your opposite hand, place your hand on your head and tilt your ear to the shoulder. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Remember to breathe deeply throughout.
  • Switch hands and do the opposite sides.

3. ‘Nose To Armpit’

Potentially ‘stinky’ but highly effective. Of all the stretching exercises for neck pain, this one is the easiest and takes hardly any time to complete.

  • Hold the top of your head gently with one hand.
  • Tilt the nose toward your armpit and hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat with the opposite side.

If you feel pain or discomfort – stop immediately and contact a professional

What Is Likely To Be Causing My Neck Pain?

Neck pain can range from mild discomfort after a long day’s work to excruciating pain and chronic conditions. The cause of neck pain can vary too. From simple issues like accidentally twisting your neck, to long term issues like overtraining and repetitive movement. Here are some common causes of neck stiffness and pain:

  • Awkward postures and slouching on the couch. Sometimes our lifestyle choices and bad habits are the secret enemies – and bad posture is no exception. While often the cause of back pain, the neck and shoulder region is by no means immune.
  • Strains and sprains. The neck is full of bones, ligaments, and tendons. And when put under stress, they can suffer minor or severe injuries or overstretching. Sleeping in an awkward position or even having a stressful day is enough to cause some minor to moderate problems.
  • Whiplash and sudden accidents. The neck can suffer whiplash type injuries when involved in a car accident. When the head is jerked forward or backward suddenly injury and strains can occur to the bones, muscles, ligaments, and nerves.
  • Arthritis of the neck can cause pain and discomfort when the neck is held in the same position for extended periods. Aged related change can be asymptomatic or aggravated by sustained postures or awkward positions. If you have a history of arthritis, it’s best to consult a physiotherapist for targeted advice.

Home Equipment For Stiff Neck Stretches

While some exercises are simple enough to do without extra equipment, others require a few bits and pieces to reach further or massage deeper. Consider getting some exercise bands to spice up your home workout and exercise routine. If your pillow is uncomfortable, consider an upgrade.

When Stiff Neck Stretches Aren’t Working

Be prepared for stretching to relieve pain but if symptoms persist there might be some more work involved. It might need some specific treatment or a neck strengthening program. If you find that stretching exercises for neck pain aren’t helping over the long term you may want to consider a different approach. Visiting a physiotherapist for more detailed advice is a good idea if you want to get to the bottom of it. No need to search for a “physio near me”. Reach out to the team at Integrity Physio and book your consultation today.

Leslie Trigg

Director & Senior Physiotherapist at Integrity Physiotherapy Leslie Trigg, has over 15 years of experience in clinical practice. He has graduated with a degree in Human Biology (Anatomy and Physiology) from Curtin University in 2001 and later completed a Masters of Physiotherapy in 2007. He has tremendous experience in musculoskeletal, orthopaedic, neurosurgical and sports physiotherapy. In his spare time, he enjoys swimming, listening to music and spending time with his family.