Neck Stretches

| July 3, 2013 | Reply

Neck pain is a typical medical issue for millions of people around the world, being triggered by a wide variety of reasons (poor posture, nerve compression, worn joints, injuries caused by a whiplash or other trauma etc.). To deal with that issue and to help affected people fortify those muscles, a selection of neck stretching exercises has been developed. Taking into consideration that the most common factor of the stiffness in neck that ultimately causes pain is the head and shoulders’ posture – rather than an accident –, the following exercises/stretches are ideal for ameliorating that condition.

neck muscles

Neck Muscles

The Area

The neck features a group of muscles with notable complexity; these connect the skull with the vertebral column and are responsible for the movement of the head and neck into every direction, also contributing to the forming of facial expressions and the opening of the mouth; therefore, it becomes evident that reducing their stiffness and strengthening them is immensely important.

Neck Stretching Exercises

Due to the neck’s nature and structure, most neck stretch exercises can be performed almost anywhere – either with just the force of your neck or by applying some resistance force with your hands –, and that’s a big plus for every person who wants to get benefited from them without having to find a roomy place or use special equipment. Here are some basic exercises – don’t forget to check our stretching guide before trying them!:

The first one actually is not a single neck stretch exercise, but a quadruplet of stretches that are highly linked to each other and can offer an all-around treating of the area (have a look at the Photo 1 for more information on them). They are performed by either sitting on a chair or standing upright, with your spine in line and your hands holding the seat of the chair or your thighs, respectively – and they are all active; these are:

  • Chin to chest (neck flexion): Bend you neck down until your chin touches your chest (you can help that head move by also bringing your chest up upwards); the moment that you sense the stretch at the back of your neck, stop and hold it.
  • Head back (neck extension): Drop your head behind your body and push it as much as you can; when you feel the stretch at the front of your neck, hold it.
  • Ear to shoulder (lateral flexions): Drop your ear on your shoulder until you feel the stretch from the opposing side of the neck and keep it; repeat with the other ear and shoulder.
  • Chin to shoulder (right rotation): This time, before you bend on your shoulder, turn your head so as the chin approaches your shoulder, and hold when you sense the stretch; repeat with the other side.

Apart from the above stretches, which could be just what you need in order to give your neck muscles a decent “un-stiffening”, there are some slightly trickier exercises. Here are some of them:

  • Levator scapula stretch: A static stretch being performed either by sitting or standing next to a wall or a door, it calls for lengthening your muscles by lifting your elbow on the side, just above your shoulder; now, lay your elbow against the wall or the door and turn your head away from the stretching side moving your chin down, thus stretching the back of your neck; finally, put your other hand on your head and smoothly pull it forward to slightly expand the stretch (photo 2); hold it there and repeat with the other side.
  • Shoulder shrugs: An active/static stretch. Tip up your shoulders towards your ears and hold that for about 5 seconds; now, still with your shoulders shrugged, rotate them back until you sense a stretch in your chest muscles; hold it there, and relax; maybe that doesn’t sound special but it is actually very effective! A dynamic version of this stretch is pretty effective!
  • Backward resistance: Simple and effective; stand with feet shoulder-width apart and put your hands behind your head, buckled with your fingers, and push your head backwards while applying resistance with your hands, and hold that position. They are similar to the all-around stretches mentioned before, but the external force of hands is necessary (passive stretching).

Generally, the above described stretches should be held for about 20 seconds; repetitions can vary, from 3 to 5, for best results. Performing some of these exercises for 2-3 times a week is adequate for a serious betterment of the tightened muscles. You can also apply different forms of the aforementioned stretches. For example you can apply a dynamic version of Backward Resistance stretch instead of the static version mentioned above.

In order to better understand the previously described stretches please have a look at the Photos & Videos Paragraph.


Stretching your neck on a regular basis can deliver the following:

  • Increased flexibility thanks to the lengthening of ligaments and tendons, which greatly contributes to the alleviation from chronic neck and shoulder pain
  • Increased blood and oxygen flow, which also reduce pain (even headaches) and provide you with extra energy while relieving from psychological stress
  • Increased flow of spinal fluid
  • Ameliorated alignment of the neck and upper back
  • Reduced risk of an injury

What To Consider

Here are the main points that call for you attention:

  • Do not stretch to the point of pain
  • Do proper warm-up (5-10 minutes) before stretching
  • Perform the stretches in a smooth and controlled manner
  • Breath normally
  • Remember to stretch both sides!
  • Keep proper alignment of the head and spine, and make sure your back is straight

You should also follow our general tips regarding stretching. No need to mention here that, in case you have suffered a neck injury in the past, or you have a herniated or bulging disc, the need for consulting a doctor becomes more essential! Also, if you encounter headache or chest pain and nausea along with neck suffering, and these symptoms insist, it is recommended to stop and seek for medical advice.

Photos & Videos

Below you can watch a few photos and a video describing several neck stretching options:

neck stretches

Photo 1 – All around treating of the neck area

levator scapula stretch

Photo 2 – Levator Scapula Stretch

Shoulder Shrugs Stretch

Shoulder Shrugs Stretch

neck stretches

Backward Resistance Stretch

Our Opinion

Modern way of life makes neck stretches almost a necessity, as it is vital to keep the neck muscles strong and flexible. Also, compared to other parts of your body, the neck is usually severely neglected, so we definitely advise you to put a neck stretching routine in your lifestyle.



Category: Stretching specific Body Areas