Are you suffering from that nasty neck pain and looking up for the best exercises for a stiff neck? Something that will relieve you from this uncomfortable condition? We completely understand the discomfort that comes with a stiff neck, which can be quite annoying and painful. Unless you fix this issue, it can hinder your physical activities and also disrupt your sleep. Currently, we live in a tech era, where everyone is hooked on their phones or laptops. Now that only increases the chances of a stiff neck – something that can be fixed with the best exercises for a stiff neck.
According to a global study conducted by the Global Burden of Disease Study, neck pain ranks as the number 4 cause for disability. This study, which was conducted in the year 2015 cited the topmost reasons for disability. This conclusion was arrived at only after analyzing the medical records of worldwide patients, belonging to various age groups.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at least 70-75% of the world’s overall population suffers from neck pain, at least once in their lives. That means, at least one out of five individuals are suffering this form of discomfort right now, and in at least 54% of the cases, it is a recurring phenomenon.
The neck portion consists of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones, which jointly support the head and allows it to rotate. So, when the neck becomes stiff, this movement is hampered and can be quite painful. This condition can be caused due to various reasons, but the most common one is too much work. Hours before the computer can stress the neck, but you could still manage this with some of the best exercises for a stiff neck, which we have compiled.
Common Causes of Stiff Neck
Although the stiff neck is usually caused due to strain, stress or injury to the neck – its overall impact is influenced by the level of stress or injury. As a result, it causes pains that vary from minimal or severe. Before we discuss the best exercises for a stiff neck, it is important to understand these causes to know what can worsen it. Some common causes for a stiff neck are listed below.
Poor Sleeping Habits
It is cute to cuddle up and sleep but if you stay that way for a long time or are used to sleeping in a certain posture that stresses the neck, you need to correct it. Also, you need to avoid doing things that can adversely affect your sleep pattern. That’s because consuming caffeinated drinks, working late hours and certain other habits can lead to irregular sleep patterns.
Poor Posture during certain other activities
When you work out or get involved in other activities like sports, swimming, gardening, etc… then erratic postures while performing these activities could very well lead to a stiff neck.
Carrying Heavy Luggage
If you are fond of hobbies that involve carrying heavy luggage, then that could very well lead to a stiff neck. So, make it a habit to use travel bags with wheels or trolleys to move about heavy objects like large planters in your garden or indoors.
Everything is perfect when done in moderation, and the same applies to workouts and exercises. So, overexertion can very well strain the spine, lower back and rest of the back. That’s because performing workouts that are beyond your physical capacity can overstress your muscles and lead to neck stiffness. That is why Fitness Experts recommend that you need to gradually build up your reps over time.
Muscle Strain or Sprain
If you are in the habit of hunching over your laptop or phone for a prolonged period of time, then this could very well strain or sprain your neck. Also, performing activities like swimming, which require moving the head from this side to that can strain the neck muscles and may even tear the neck tissues or tendons.
People who have been through car accidents, sports mishaps or were victims of incidents that caused the head to jerk violently are likely to suffer from neck pain. So, this condition could very well be the aftermath of an injury to the spinal muscles, bones, ligaments, or the nerves connected to the neck. In this case, one must choose exercises only after having a word with a medical professional.
Health conditions such as stress, depression, fatigue, and anxiety can also trigger pains in the lower back and the neck. This pain is caused due to the tensed neck muscles, which lead to symptoms similar to that of a stiff neck.
Cervical Spondylosis is usually caused due to dehydrated spinal disks, which is caused due to the gradual wear and tear of the neck muscles, bones, and discs. As this condition does give out symptoms similar to osteoarthritis, it does at times cause a stiff neck. However, there are cases where weak neck muscles cause this condition and may aggravate in certain positions.
Stiff neck could both indicate meningitis or be aftermath of this health condition, which is caused due to infection and inflammation of the cerebral membranes and the membranes that protect the spinal cord. So, in case symptoms of flu persist along with a stiff neck, then that could be an indication of infection and inflammation of the meninges. If this is the case, then there is no point looking into the list of best exercises for a stiff neck, which are listed below. Instead, one must hurry up and consult a qualified medical practitioner and commence treatment immediately, else this condition could turn out to be life-threatening.
Rare Health Conditions
Rare infections like can also cause a stiff neck but in this case, consult your General Physician and other Specialists before commencing any of the below-mentioned exercises. Meningococcal disease is a serious illness that’s caused due to bacterial infection in the membranes. This infection causes inflammation of the membranes covering the spinal cord and the brain, which affects close to 1000 people in the US each year. On the other hand, Vertebral osteomyelitis refers to the inflammation caused in the vertebrae due to infection in the bone marrow.
The neck is connected to the spine and any sort of spinal misalignment with regards to the cervical spine — which includes the spinal cord, vertebrae, and discs inside your neck can cause a stiff neck.
List of Stretches and Exercises to Relieve Stiff Neck
Now that we have discussed some of the potential causes behind a stiff neck, it’s time to move a step further and figure out how to resolve the problem. If you are suffering from any sort of serious complications, we strongly recommend that you schedule an appointment with your General Physician.
On the other hand, if it is the regular stiff neck that you are experiencing due to a strenuous schedule or something of that sort, then here’s a list of some of the best exercises for a stiff neck. These exercises primarily include stretches because you cannot exercise your neck and flex its muscles in any other way. So, here is a list of ten exercises to help loosen up the muscles in your neck and to improve its flexibility.
This is can be one of the most challenging neck exercises to perform, especially when your neck isn’t feeling like its Beyonce’s. So, although it isn’t the most comfortable thing to do with a stiff neck, moving it from one side to the other can do wonders. In fact, this is one of the best exercises for a stiff neck caused due to hours of working on the computer or attending lengthy lectures at school or college. You could do this exercise either in a sitting position or while standing — the choice is absolutely yours. Let us now figure out how to do this simple yet effective exercise to relieve neck pain.
- Keep your head up straight, your shoulders perpendicular (don’t slouch), and back still and firm.
- Slowly turn your head to the left as much as you can. Make it a point to do that without straining it too much
- After holding this position for 5 seconds, gently turn your head back to its initial position and relax. Feel your muscles loosen up.
- Repeat the same stretch to your right.
You can repeat this neck exercise for up to 10 sets or as many as your neck can handle. If you are unable to fully rotate your neck due to the pain, remember its okay. Just don’t force it and aggravate the pain.
Seated Heart Opener
The very name ‘seated heart opener’ may seem strange at first, but that only indicates that you have no clue about this yoga pose and its benefits. The seated heart opener can do wonders to your neck, chest and spine. Since neck is involved (a part that greatly benefits from it) we simply could not miss out on this. Let us now figure out how to perform this exercise to relieve neck pain and stiffness.
- To perform this exercise, you need to kneel down in a certain manner.
Start by kneeling down, placing your hips on your heels and slightly bending backward.
- Now place your hands behind you in a manner that your palms are flat on the ground.
- Now stretch out your chest and lift-up your upper body by pressing your hands onto the floor and push your hips hard onto your heels.
- The intensity of this stretch can be increased by bending your head backward and stretching through your throat to your chest as much as possible. Hold this position for 5 – 10 seconds, then raise up your head and trunk.
Relax for a couple of seconds and then repeat. Try 5 reps and then gradually build it up to 15 reps.
Chin to Chest or Neck Flexion
- This can be done while standing or sitting, although sitting is the preferred position.
- Head up, shoulders in place and head-up, chin straight. Now, this should be the starting position.
- Gradually lower your chin until it touches your chest and hold this position for 5 – 10 seconds, then return back to the starting position.
- At the end of each set, you will the stretch throughout your upper back.
Repeat this neck exercise several times.
Backward Bending or Neck Extension
This is similar to the Chin to Chest neck exercise but with a minor difference. This exercise for a stiff neck is done in the opposite manner. To do the backward bending exercise for neck pain, follow these steps.
- Take a convenient position. You can do this exercise either while remaining seated or while standing. So, your starting position is the same as it is in the Chin to Chest exercise.
- Slowly bend your head backward as far as your neck can allow, without any discomfort and hold that position for the next 5 to 10 seconds.
- Return to the initial position slowly and you will feel the stretches from the base of your skull down to your upper back, and also from your front neck to your throat.
You can do 5 to 10 reps of this exercise for a stiff neck on a daily basis.
Side Bending or Lateral Neck Flexion
To do the side bending or lateral neck flexion, follow the below-mentioned steps.
- Start by standing with your feet apart (equivalent to shoulder length).
- With your feet apart, place your arms on either side of your body.
- Gently bend your head to your left until your left ear touches your left shoulder without lifting your shoulder up. You can bend your head a further inch by lightly pressing the top of your head with your fingertips.
- Hold this position for 5 – 10 seconds and then return your head to its normal position.
- Repeat this neck exercise for the right side of your neck.
While performing this exercise, you will feel it along the right and left side of your neck. Repeat the exercise 5 to 10 times.
The bridge is one of the most popular exercises for a stiff neck and also for the back. However, since you need to lay down to do this exercise, it is recommended that you make use of an exercise mat.
- Start by lying down on your back with your arms straight on either side. Slowly bend your legs towards you, until your knees point towards the roof.
Bring your heels as close as you can to your hips while your feet are still parallel to each other.
- With your palms on the floor, lift-up your trunk and hold this position for 5 seconds.
- Return to a neutral position by slowly lowering your back and bringing it closer to the floor.
Do 5 reps and gradually build up to 15 reps. Again, this is a pose from the yoga exercise sun salutations, which involves a series of poses that are to be done sequentially.
Quadruped T-spine Rotation
To do this exercise you need to first bend down on all fours (quadruped position), and then get started with this simple yet effective exercise for a stiff neck. For all you know, it might even help relax those tired back muscles and put you in good shape. To do the quadruped T-spine rotation, follow the below-mentioned steps.
- Spread a yoga mat and get into the quadruped position.
- Bend down with your hands shoulder-width apart and bend your elbows a little.
- Put a hand behind your head, your body in-line with the floor and your knees hip-width apart.
- Spread out your chest in the direction of the hand behind your head, then move the bent elbow towards your base elbow.
- Repeat the movement 10 to 15 times and then switch to the other side.
- While performing this neck exercise, ensure your hips are always firm and square to the floor.
The Quadruped T-spine rotation exercise will not only fix that stiff neck but also allow you to fully stretch and help loosen your neck, back and also your shoulder muscles.
Standing AWTUVI exercise
This exercise may have a strange name, but it can do wonders when you are having a bad day at work due to a stiff neck. However, you may have to find a private place to do this exercise as it can only be done in a standing position. This exercise requires you to sequentially form the various alphabets with your arms and elbows. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Let’s figure out how to do this exercise for a stiff neck.
- Start by resting your entire back against a wall, including your arms. You need to touch the back portion of your body on the wall so don’t lean on it.
- Now chest out and shoulders straight like an Army Sarge.
- Gently press your shoulders, elbows and wrists against the wall.
- W – Bend your elbows and raise them up to the level of your chest.
- T – Stretch out your arms to your sides, making sure they align with your shoulders.
- U – Raise your hands to shoulder level and square your elbows.
- V – Stretch out your arms diagonally over your head.
- I – Raise your arms straight over your head.
Repeat it 10 to 15 times.
Grounded Tipover Tuck
A stiff neck can at times cause serious headaches and this is precisely when you can do the grounded tipover tuck for some quick relief. To do this exercise for a stiff neck and a headache, follow the below-mentioned steps.
- This is performed while kneeling.
- Start this exercise by putting yourself into Child’s Resting Pose. Hold this position for a few seconds as you try to stretch your neck through the lower back by relaxing your chest through your thighs.
- Clasp your palms forming a double fist, then lift-up your hands as high as possible, fully stretching out. Take a breath and push your weight forward and raise your hips up.
- Stop this movement with you resting on the top of your head, and fully stretch your hands closer to the floor as possible. Hold this position for 5 – 10 seconds and then rest your hips on the heels. Hold this position and then raise your hips from your heels again.
- Repeat these movements 5 to 10 times, then return to the starting position with the arms placed at your sides.
This neck exercise helps to alleviate headaches and drowsiness.
Seated Clasping Neck Stretch
As the name suggests, this exercise is done in a seated position, either on the floor or a chair.
- Sit straight up with your hips firmly placed on the seat and clasp your palms behind your head.
- Then press your head down towards your thighs, away from your shoulders with your chin digging into your chest. Hold this position for 5 – 10 seconds, then slowly return to the neutral position.
- This stretch will be felt through the back of your neck to your upper back.
You now have a list of neck exercises that you can perform to relieve the pains caused by a stiff neck. We have broken it down into steps making it easy for you to follow. Remember, “prevention is better than cure.” So, it is important you take the necessary preventative measures to avoid suffering from a stiff neck, especially if you are a fitness or sports enthusiast. Some of these preventative measures including assuming the right posture while sleeping, reading, exercising or carrying out any other activity. By performing regular neck stretches and exercises to release tension from and strengthen the neck, shoulders and core muscles, you would only enhance your ability to deal with stress.