This article was originally published on November 28, 2016.
Whether it’s from poor posture at your desk, looking at your phone for too long, or sleeping in a bad position, we’ve all experienced neck pain and tension. Strain in our levator scapula, the muscle that connects our cervical spine to our shoulders, is common and happens from everyday activities. Last week I left town to visit family, and after a week of sleeping in different beds and on an airplane, my neck was so stiff I couldn’t turn my head to one side. I made sure to visit my chiropractor, Dr. Greg Vanvakaris at The Health Spot in L.A., as soon as I got home. Dr. Greg is well-known for treating professional dancers around town. If anyone knows how to ease body aches and pains, it’s him. Dr. Greg showed me some stretches to do to release my neck tension. When I did them, I felt immediate relief. They are basic enough to remember and safe to do every day. Here are 4 chiropractic stretches you can do to relieve neck pain and tension.
1. Side Neck Release– Sit or stand up straight and point your nose down towards one armpit. Place the hand on the side you are looking towards behind your head. Take your other arm and place it behind your back. This will help keep that shoulder down and assist in the stretch of your neck muscle on that side. Gently pull downwards with the hand behind the head to feel the stretch. Hold for 30-40 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
2. Hand Clasp Behind Head Stretch– Sit or stand up straight. Clasp your hands together and place the palm of your hands behind the base of your skull. Pull your elbows into the sides of your head and gently pull down while trying to point your elbows towards the ground. Relax the shoulders so that they drop away from your ears; hold the stretch for 30-40 seconds.
3. Chest Opener- When the muscles in the chest and front of the neck get too tight, they pull on all the posterior muscles, making our back and neck pain even worse. To balance your body out, do this stretch every day. Stand or sit up straight. Clasp your hands together behind you. Pull the shoulders down by straightening the arms and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lift your chin up as you tilt your head back just enough to feel a stretch in the front of your throat. Make sure to lengthen the neck up while doing this stretch so that you are not completely collapsing in the back of your neck. Hold for 5 seconds, release, and repeat 4 more times.
4. The Double Chin– Sit or stand up straight. Take two fingers and place them on your chin. Without tilting your chin down, gently push your chin in to create a double chin. Repeat 10 times. This move really saved me when I was having neck pain from working on my laptop for too long. When staring at a screen the tendency is to extend our necks out. This creates even more tension in our cervical spine and the muscles surrounding it. Doing this exercise may look funny, but it’s excellent in lengthening and creating mobility in our cervical spine.
Having a stiff neck can put on a damper on your day. Do these stretches first thing in the morning and repeat them throughout the day when necessary. Your neck will thank you!
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Photo: Crystal Chin