Sticking Your Neck Out: 3 Stretches to Combat a Stiff Neck

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Your neck is one of the smaller parts of your body, comparatively speaking, but having a sore or stiff neck can make this tiny section of your body feel like a giant pain. But if you don't have the time or money (or even inclination) to go get your neck professionally worked on, you might despair at the idea of having an aching neck forever. Things don't have to be that way, however. Here are plenty of home exercises to work out the kinks in your neck. With a little guidance, you can do these exercises safely and easily. 

Ride the Levator

This stretch is great for the neck pain that radiates down to where your neck and shoulders meet, as it stretches out the muscle there (which is called the levator scapula). First, raise one of your arms to the side so that your elbow is above your shoulder, then rest that elbow on a wall. After that, turn your head away from your raised arm and slowly put your chin down. You should feel a stretch in the back of your neck at this point. Finally, take your other hand and use it to gently pull your head down even further to increase the stretch, and hold this pose for 30 seconds before slowly returning to a neutral position. Repeat on your other side.

Back to Back

This stretch not only feels super relaxing but also (and more importantly) allows the tension to seep out of your upper back and neck, banishing stiffness and soreness. To perform the static back, lay on your back on the floor with your legs on a couch or chair of some sort so that your hips and your knees are both at a 90 degree angle (your body should basically look like a Z with an extended bottom line). Spread your arms out at a 45 degree angle from your body with your palms up and breathe in deeply, feeling your neck stretch. Hold this pose for somewhere between 5 to 10 minutes, making sure to breathe deeply and evenly the entire time.

Roll Along

This last stretch has to be done very slowly, but it will provide almost immediate relief when you notice your neck is stiff. To begin, look straight ahead while sitting with your back straight so that your neck and spine are aligned. Then, slowly bow your chin to the floor, but not so far that your chin touches your chest. Slowly (very slowly!) roll your head clockwise to the side and back, completing a full rotation to get you back to where you started. After that, repeat the motion in a counterclockwise direction. You can repeat this as often as you need to, provided you make sure not to go too fast.

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