If you work at a computer all day as I do, chances are, you have neck tension or pain. Biologically, humans aren’t meant to sit for long periods. Yet, if you have a job that requires you to do so, it may be harder to avoid.
I’ve stretched my neck more frequently over the past couple of years, considering I am always sitting at a desk, which causes me to slouch, round my shoulders, and lean my neck forward. All of this results in neck pain radiating from the top of my neck all the way down to my upper trapezius. Not to mention, do you stress much? Because I do, and that stress builds up quickly in your neck region.
There are many stretches you can do to alleviate pain in your neck. Some are better than others. What it comes down to is knowing your body and which areas are affected. For me, my neck and upper back are the biggest culprits when it comes to pain in my upper body.
Here are 3 neck stretches to release stress:
You have to think of your neck like the rest of your body. In this regard, I mean your neck doesn’t work by itself. Just like your feet don’t work without your legs and vice versa. Most of the muscles in your body work in conjunction with other muscles. Your neck relies heavily on your upper back muscles to help support it, the biggest being the upper trapezius.
The upper trapezius stretch is the one you see people doing the most when they want to stretch their neck. Yet, some do it wrong or don’t take advantage of the deeper stretch they can receive, if done fully. The great thing about this stretch is you can do it anywhere, work, home, gym, etc. It doesn’t matter.
Upper Trapezius Stretch: You start by sitting up straight and pulling your shoulders back. This is the foundation you will use for many of your stretches. Now, begin by leaning your head towards one shoulder. If you’re leaning towards your right shoulder, take your left hand and stick it out to the side, with your palm facing down, just above the ground. Take your right hand, arch it over your head, rest it on your ears, and pull slightly. Breathe in and out and while holding this position for 30 seconds on both sides. For a deeper stretch, take your left hand and begin to raise it in the air, you’ll feel the stretch deepen.
It’s critical to remember that you must keep the integrity of any stretch. By this, I mean, don’t forget about your foundation. The lesser of a foundation you have, the lesser of a stretch you’ll receive. Most importantly, don’t forget to breathe deeply.
Another stress-relieving neck stretch targets the levator scapulae muscle, which runs from the top side of your neck behind the ear, all the way down to where your trapezius is. The muscles around this area can become very tight from prolonged sitting and tilting your head forward. This stretch is great to do after a long day at the office. However, don’t wait until then. Remember, you must be consistent in your stretching. Complete stretches while you are working for the best results. Otherwise, you won’t be giving your body the attention it needs.
Levator Scapulae Stretch: If you’re sitting, you can start by placing one of your hands under your butt. If you’re standing, you can put it behind your back. Then, lean your head down towards your free hand side, almost at a 45-degree angle, towards your armpit. Ease your hand’s resistance when you inhale, and increase it when you exhale, allowing a deeper stretch to occur. Breathe in and out while holding this position for 30 seconds on both sides.
Lastly, most of us think about stretching all of our body’s muscles that give us problems. But there is another essential factor to consider, to exercise them. To prevent any pain from continually recurring, we must not only stretch a muscle but strengthen it. How do we do this for the neck? Well, a great example is the chin tuck. It’s so easy anyone can do it at any time, any place, anywhere.
Chin Tuck: You start by looking straight on. Then you want to take one or two fingers and place them on your chin. Now, gently push your chin back, as if you are trying to retract your neck. Hold it for a few seconds and then let your chin go back to its initial position. Repeat this about 10 times, and don’t forget to breathe.
The 3 neck stretches to release stress include the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, and chin tuck. As mentioned, I use these stretches because they help me a lot individually. I may have different stresses and pains than you do. These neck stretches help me release stress, reduce pain, and have more mobility in my neck. But it’s always best if you do what works for you. These are just a few simple examples. But with a little creativity, and more advanced knowledge of the body, the possibilities of stretching your neck, or any other area, are endless.