5 Easy Neck Pain Exercises
December 13th, 2017
This practice is known as physical therapy, often referred to as PT. Physical therapy is arguably more effective as a long-term solution for chronic pain than probably any medicine. In fact, many recent studies have linked most pain medicines to actually making pain worse in the long run. Painkillers have been known cause hyperalgesia, which increases one’s sensitivity to pain.4 This well documented among many long-term opiate patients. This is still the case even when a person does not abuse their prescriptions, although this can increase the risk.
Physical therapy offers the best alternative solution to long term pain, with none of the downright awful side effects of taking medication. A study published by US News and World Report found that most physicians are not prescribing exercise for pain often enough. The American Physical Therapy Association also echoed this sentiment in a letter to the editor in response to the story. “Physical therapists have long been proponents of exercises for both neck and back pain.,” according to Scott Ward, President of the American Physical Therapy Association.5
With so many signs pointing to physical therapy as the best solutions to chronic neck and back pain, we wanted to tell you how you can easily bring physical therapy home. Physical therapy exercises for low back arthritus can have excellent benefits on overall heal and wellbeing. Exercises that strengthen the major muscles around the neck can often alleviate physical pain as your neck gets stronger. There is even some moderate evidence that neck pain exercises can bring immediate pain relief. Overall, this healthy alternative to medication may be something you want to seek out. The long term effects of physical therapy hae been shown to greatly improve chronic pain. It is worth trying, and you can try it yourself easy neck pain exercises that can be done at home or in your office.
First things first, you’ll need a small ball. This shouldn’t be the kind of exercise ball you can sit on. You want something about the size of a basketball or volleyball, maybe even smaller. A toy will do.
Take the ball and place it between your head and the wall at your forehead. Press against the wall with your head. Hold this for 3-5 seconds, whatever feels comfortable for you. Repeat 5-10 times, and increase this to 15-20 times as you get stronger. Don’t do more than you feel like you are capable of, especially on this exercise. Exercises with resistance such as this one can sometimes feel misleading to how much you are actually exerting yourself. After you have finished a set on the front, do one on each side. Balance the ball between the wall and right about your ear. Press and hold. Aim for the same amount of time and repetitions as you did in the front. Finally, you’ll want to the back. This is probably the most important of them all, so a few extra reps with the ball against the middle of your skull would certainly not hurt anything.
Pull your head back until your ears rest over your shoulders. It's easier to do this exercise standing, because you need to make sure you are upright. Pull your head back, and hold three seconds. Release for three seconds. Repeat this 5-15 times, depending on how comfortable you are with it. Keep your chin level throughout. This may cause a bit of a double chin effect but it’s a gentle way to exercise the neck. You will want to eventually increase your repetitions gradually, until you reach about 25-45. The exercise may feel strange or uncomfortable, but shout not hurt.
How many reps you will end up being able to do or start with may be based on your age, sex, strength, extent of injury, and a variety of other factors. While increasing your strength is the goal, and increasing your reps is a good indicator of growth, you never want to do more harm than good. If you overexert the muscle, you will actually lose growth, since you won't be able to exercise while you heal.
The next exercise is a variation on the last. Keep in mind, you do not need to do all of these every day. Pull your head back over your ears, but don't hold. Just pull it back, then release. Do this 10-15 times in a row, and on the last rep, hold the position for 5 seconds. After you release wait about 30 seconds before doing another set. Do your next set exactly the same. 2 sets is enough to start with. Make it your goal to increase to 15-20 reps and 4-6 sets. Make sure to increase slowly. However, the more you eventually can do comfortably, the more effective the therapy will be in the long run. Alternate this exercise and the previous one. Don’t do both in the same day.
For the fourth exercise, you'll need to find a comfortable wall. Place your butt against the wall, and then move your heels so that they’re also pressed against the wall. Next, bring your shoulders over to the wall as well. Finally, pull your head back until the base of your skull is touching the wall. Hold for 5-30 seconds depending on how long you can hold this one without any pain.
This one can be quite difficult, but is very easy to do on the go at any wall, anywhere. Once you become comfortable with it, it can be one of the most rewarding in resetting your whole posture. After you've rested a moment, return to.the wall and try again. Give it three honest tries your first time and then get out; you don't need to wear yourself out to do any good. Eventually, you wanna work this up to being an exercise that isn't hard. That way, of you feel yourself slouching at your desk and having pain, you can take a minute to immediately fully reset your posture from the bottom up. This quick exercise can be a convenient form of therapy to go once you can get used to the challenge.
Last, you need to do neck stretches. Many people don’t think of stretching as an exercise, but it has excellent benefits: stretching burns calories and is arguably just as important to muscle growth as resistance exercises.3 Once you have done anaerobic exercise to an area, you have to stretch the muscle to stimulate the most growth. Muscles tear and are rebuilt by the proteins in your body. Stretching completes the tearing in a healthy way. Too many resistance exercises without stretching can result in muscles becoming over-shortened, which can be very painful.
Stand up straight. Tilt your ear toward your shoulder. Advance until you feel a slight pull from your ear down to your shoulder on the opposite side of your head. This should be a very mild pulling sensation. This stretch is only effective when done in a completely upright position. After finding the correct positioning for the stretch, hold for 15 seconds, then slowly raise your neck upright. Then, do the same thing on the other side. Repeat this 2-4 times and you should feel some release of the muscles in the neck. You can increase to twenty seconds, but there is really no reason to increase more than that or increase the sets beyond four. If you want to stretch more, try some other stretches like traditional neck rolls.
The better your muscles can support your spine, the less pain you will have.
Some small modifications around your home or office can greatly improve the strain you put on your neck, which will decrease your neck pain. Raising the eye level of your TV and Computer screens to where you look straight ahead, or slightly up, rather than down at the screen. This can cause gradual degeneration in the neck which can cause bad posture. A curved neck posture can cause new or increased neck pain. As well as stronger muscles, more strategic screen positioning can save your neck a lot of trouble. You should also be wary while texting or browsing on your phone of looking down too long. Bring your phone up to eye level. This way you can avoid “text neck.” A small neck pillow to help increase and vary support to either side or the back, which can decrease your neck pain. These small modifications can make a large difference in your spinal health. A healthier spine means less pain.
What Helps Pain is committed to arming you with the information you need to help you treat your pain. If you have a topic you would like us to address, leave us a comment or write us on Twitter. Whathelpspain.com wants to help you find the solution to your specific pain.
1Neck Pain Causes - SPINE-health
2What are the possible effects of letting neck pain go untreated? - Dr. Akash Bajaj
3Stretch Your Way Into Shape - Prevention
4When Opioids Make Pain Worse - NPR
5APTA Letter to US and World Report - APTA