Neck pain! It's one of the biggest complaints I get as a Yoga and Pilates Instructor. Neck pain can come from a range of different things, from bad posture to sitting funny at your desk, from sleeping at a bad angle to tension from stress. Muscular neck pain can be very frustrating and it can be hard to know how to help alleviate it. Here are some things you can try to reduce some of the muscular pain in your neck.
**Heads up - necks are fragile! Check-in with your doctor if you're unsure about any pain you have and if any of these exercises/stretches cause you pain, stop doing them immediately**
1. Dynamic neck stretches
These dynamic stretches can help to loosen up tight muscles as well as warming them up before any strenuous work. Don't forget to warm up your neck before you exercise! Use these as a warm-up before the activation exercises below.
Look left and right
Move your head through its full range of movement from looking left to looking right. Start with a slow, small movement and gradually build up to looking a bit further and a little faster. Stop or move slower if it makes you feel dizzy.
Side to side
Bring your left ear down towards your left shoulder until you feel a very gentle stretch through the right side of your neck. Repeat to the other side. Continue switching sides.
Forward and backwards
Look as far down as you can, then look as far up as you can.
Very gently, circle your head around. If it feels uncomfortable to circle all the way around, do a semi-circle with your head going down and to one side, then down and to the other side.
Look down towards one shoulder. Use your hand to gently increase the stretch by applying a small amount of pressure to the other side of your head. Start to circle your shoulder forwards and backwards. Repeat on the other side. Repeat with your ear towards your shoulder instead of looking at your shoulder.
2. Activation exercises
Necks need a workout too! Sometimes pain and stiffness can occur because of a weakness in your muscles. This means you may need to strengthen those muscles to feel them release. These exercises will help to activate and strengthen your neck. Perform each exercise slowly and with as much control of the muscles as possible.
Supine head lift
Lie on your back flat. Lift your head up and bring your chin to your chest as you breathe out. Breathe in as you rest your head back down on the floor. Repeat 10 times.
Lie on your back with arms by your sides. As you exhale, lift your head, neck, chest and arms up off the floor. Reach your hands away from you and feel your shoulders pressing away from your ears. Inhale to rest back down. Repeat 10 times.
Prone head lift
Lie on your tummy, or come to all fours if that is more comfortable, looking straight down. Lift your head to look forward, then bring your nose back towards the floor. Be gentle with your neck. If this feels uncomfortable for your throat, open your mouth slightly. Repeat 10 times.
Side head lift
Lie on one side with your head relaxed down on the floor. Lift your head up towards the higher shoulder. Relax it back down. Repeat 10 times before switching to the other side.
3. Muscle release
These stretches will help to lengthen the muscles in your neck and release tension. They are ideally performed after your activation exercises.
Hold each of the positions pictured for 20 seconds.
Bring one ear to your shoulder and one hand to the top ear. Incredibly gently, press your head into your hand and count to 5, then breathe out as you relax your head and use your hand to gently stretch your neck a little further. Repeat 2 more times. Then switch sides.
SMR and Massage
SMR (self-myofascial release, which is what foam rolling is) and massage are excellent ways of releasing the muscles in your neck. Call up your local physio or masseuse (highly recommend - you will love it!), ask a friend or do it yourself. You could do gentle movements, pressing down on your muscles of simply hold down pressure on tight muscles using your hand or a tennis ball.
If you can work these three types of exercises into your routine, hopefully, it will help reduce your muscular neck pain! Give it a try and let me know how you go in the comments below.
What other pain do you struggle with that you'd love some Yoga and Pilates exercises to help? Let me know in the comments or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Let me know if these tips have helped you!
Love and light,
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