Health Education

Neck and Shoulder Exercises

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We carry the world on your shoulders and something the size and weight of a bowling ball on top of our necks. It is not surprising that we all get a little stiff and sore now and then, no matter what age we are.

The neck and shoulders take a lot of physical stress and abuse, turning this way and that, nodding, bobbing, jerking, lifting, hunching and straining all day long. In fact, neck and shoulder problems are among the most common injuries. In addition to physical injury, we manifest a lot of the effects of stress and tension in our necks and shoulders.

What can I do for chronic neck and shoulder pain?

Be careful when working with your neck and shoulders. Move slowly and deliberately. Pay attention to which muscles are being used. Never go beyond your edge of comfort. This isn't a workout, test or competition. Always start your exercises slowly—and in the order marked—to allow muscles to loosen up gradually. Heat treatments such as a warm bath, warm towel or heating pad just before you start can help relax tight muscles. Here are a few of our favorite stretches:

  • The Head Turn: Stand or sit up with chin tucked in close to chest. Turn head slowly to right, trying to bring your chin over to your right shoulder. Hold for three seconds; rotate head back to center position. Pause. Repeat in opposite direction.
  • The Head Nod: Push your chin downward, trying to touch it to your chest, without causing too much strain. Pause. Slowly lift head backward as far as possible without straining. Pause. Repeat 5 times
  • Side-to-Side: Bend your head slightly to the right, trying to bring your right ear to your right shoulder. Pause. Return slowly to center position. Repeat in opposite direction. Repeat sequences 5 times.
  • The Head Roll: Roll your head clockwise in as wide a circle as possible (up, to the right, down, to the left) for three complete circles. Do the same in the opposite direction (Counterclockwise). Pause. Repeat 3 times
  • The Shoulder Shrug: Stand erect, arms held loosely at sides. Breathe deeply as you lift your shoulders first as high and then as far back as they will move. Breathe out as you lower your shoulders to the starting position and relax. Repeat 20 times, at least twice a day.
  • The Upper Back Stretch: First get into a sitting position. Place hands on shoulders. Try to cross your elbows by bringing your right arm to the left and your left arm to the right, until you feel the stretch across your upper back. Return to starting position, drop your hands and relax. Repeat 10 times.