Neck Stretches & Exercises

Athletic injuries, car accidents and poor posture are among the culprits of chronic and/or acute neck pain. Stretching and exercising the neck may help prevent and alleviate some of this pain. The neck can be stretched and strengthened through its primary ranges of motion: flexion (chin to chest), lateral flexion (ear to shoulder), extension (looking upward) and rotation (looking side to side).

Neck Extension Stretch

Neck extension stretches the front part of the neck. To perform this stretch, look straight upward for 15 to 30 seconds.

Neck Flexion Stretch

Stretch the back of the neck by moving your head toward your chest as far as is comfortable. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Neck Lateral Flexion Stretch

Move your right ear toward your right shoulder to stretch the left side of your neck. Move your left ear toward your left shoulder to stretch the right side of your neck. Hold on each side for 15 to 30 seconds.

Neck Rotation Stretch

While looking straight forward, turn your head to the right until you feel a stretch through the back and left side of your neck. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side by turning your head to the left.

Neck Rolls

Hold your head in a neutral position. Start by flexing your neck so your chin moves toward your chest. Then roll your head to the left so your ear moves over your shoulder. Continue to roll your head backward so your neck extends. Finally, roll your head so your right ear moves over your right shoulder. Continue for 10 neck rolls and then repeat in the opposite direction.

Neck Backward Resistance

To strengthen the muscles that extend the neck, hold both hands behind your head and push into them with your head. Resist with your hands so your muscles contract, but your head does not move. Relax after 5 or more seconds.

Neck Forward Resistance

This exercise works on the muscles that flex your neck. Place your hands against your forehead and try to move your chin toward your chest, but resist with your hands so your head does not actually move. Hold for at least 5 seconds.

Neck Lateral Resistance

To exercise the muscles that tilt your head from side to side, hold your left hand against the left side of your head above your ear. Press into your hand with your head, trying to move your left ear to your shoulder. Resist this movement with your hand. Hold for 5 or more seconds and then repeat on the right side.

Neck Rotational Resistance

To resist neck rotation, turn your head so you are looking over your left shoulder. Then place your right hand on your right cheek and try to turn your head back to the center, but resist with your right hand so your head does not move. Hold for at least 5 seconds and then repeat by turning your head to the right and resisting with your left hand.

About this Author

Matthew Schirm has worked in the sports performance field for 10 years. He has professional experience as a baseball coach and weight training instructor. He recently earned a Master of Science degree in human movement from A.T. Still University in Mesa, Ariz.