Neck Exercises

Neck Exercises for Neck Pain

Neck pain usually gets better in a few weeks. You can usually treat it yourself at home. It’s a good idea to keep your neck moving, as resting too much could make the pain worse.

If you have neck pain, you want to get rid of it as soon as you can. One of the ways to do that is through exercise.

Neck pain typically stems from poor posture, which puts extra tension on the neck muscles, irritates joints, and causes pain. Exercises can help reduce pain, increase mobility, and strengthen the neck and postural musculature.

Neck pain is a common problem that may occur for many reasons. Typically, it improves within a few weeks and is rarely serious.

People can take steps to relieve neck pain at home by using over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil), and keeping active.

Exercises may also help reduce neck tension and increase the range of movement in the neck. People experiencing severe neck pain should not attempt neck exercises and should instead contact a healthcare professional.


Many people find the following exercises helpful. If you need to, adjust the position so that it’s comfortable. Try to do these exercises regularly. Do each one a few times to start with, to get used to them, and gradually increase how much you do.

Neck tilt (side to side

Tilt your head down towards one of your shoulders, leading with your ear. Try not to shrug your shoulder. Gently tense your neck muscles and hold for five seconds. Return your head to centre and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat five times on each side.

Neck stretch

Keeping the rest of the body straight, push your chin forward, so your throat is stretched. Gently tense your neck muscles and hold for five seconds. Return your head to the centre and push it backwards, keeping your chin up. Hold for five seconds. Repeat five times.

Neck turn

Turn your head to one side, keeping your chin at the same height and moving within comfortable limits. Gently tense your neck muscles and hold for five seconds. Return your head to the centre and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat five times on each side.

Neck tilt (down)

Sit or stand, with good posture. It’s best to sit down if you have trouble balancing. Slowly tilt your head down, to rest your chin on your chest. Gently tense your neck muscles and hold for five seconds. Repeat five times.

Aerobic conditioning

Aerobic exercise, commonly called “cardio,” is fueled by a steady intake of oxygen and keeps the heart rate and breathing levels elevated for the duration of the workout. Aerobic exercises increase blood flow to the muscles and soft tissues of the neck and upper back, which can help loosen the muscles and increase range of motion. In addition, after about 30 or more minutes of aerobic exercise, the body’s natural painkillers—called endorphins—are released and can help reduce neck pain.

Neck strengthening

Specific strengthening exercises can help maintain improved posture, which in turn can lessen or eliminate recurrent flare-ups of pain. As a general rule, neck strengthening exercises should be done every other day to allow muscles time to repair themselves.

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Shoulder rolls

Start with the head and neck in a neutral position. Lift both shoulders in a shrugging motion, without moving the head or neck. Move the shoulders in a circular motion, squeezing the shoulder blades together and then releasing them to push them forward. Repeat the movement in the opposite direction.

Other ways to improve neck pain

Poor posture is a common cause of muscle strains in the neck. It can worsen an existing injury and increase the likelihood of another one.

Using a computer or phone for extended periods can lead to forward head posture, where the head projects forward from the spine. This can trigger symptoms such as dull pain across the back or sides of the neck that may spread to the upper back, shoulders, and head.

If a person adjusts their posture, they may reduce neck, back, and shoulder pain.

When seated, a person should aim to keep the head in line with the spine and avoid slouching. It may help to adjust the screen to eye level when using a computer.

When standing, a person should keep the shoulders, neck, and spine aligned to achieve the correct posture. They should avoid tilting the head forward.

Sleeping on the stomach can also cause neck problems. A person can try to sleep on the back or on one side with a pillow between the knees. They can also use a supportive pillow to keep the neck aligned with the spine.

Bottom Line

Neck pain is a common occurrence and has a range of causes.

Neck pain will often ease without treatment. Depending on the cause, exercises may help with recovery.

Exercising the neck may reduce pain, increase range of motion, and improve strength. Sometimes, a person with neck pain may require the help of a physical therapist.

A doctor may also prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and alleviate neck pain.

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