Neck Stretching Routines to Avoid Injury, Reduce Stress, and Feel Better
Have you ever considered neck stretching routines as part of your overall fitness plan?
According to the American Council on Exercise, over 70% of adults will have some form of neck injury or pain in their lives. Given that the neck, like the back, is a central hub in nearly all motion that we perform, a neck injury can be very debilitating.
Wouldn’t it make sense to take some simple steps to avoid this hassle in your life?
An effective stretching routine for your neck is one of the most effective ways to reduce, or even eliminate, the chance of a painful neck injury. As part of an overall stretching and fitness plan, neck stretching will not only reduce injuries, but also improve your overall wellness.
Your neck, back, and body will just feel better if the muscles are properly stretched and exercised, and you follow a consistent plan to achieve this.
Neck Stretching Benefits
There are many powerful benefits to a consistent neck stretching routine:
- Reduce stress in the neck, which will improve muscle tension throughout the body
- Improve flexibility in the neck which will reduce injuries in your daily life
- Greatly reduce the chance of injury in physical workouts and sports
- Improve your neck’s range of motion, which can diminish with age in the absence of stretching
- Improve your posture by reducing the tightness of your primary neck muscles
- Improve circulation by increasing blood flow to your muscles
And because you will feel it throughout each day, the most important benefit of all might just be the improvement in your overall well-being.
When your muscles are flexible, stretched, and relaxed, your body feels better and is more at ease. It is more prepared for all of your daily activities, which of course includes workouts, sports, and physical activity.
When your neck muscles are stiff and tense, your body will not be at ease, and you are more prone to injury and tenseness.
Several years ago I did not realize how easy it was to strain a neck muscle, so I really did not focus on stretching my neck prior to my workouts…big mistake!
I was doing pulley rows for my back with a “cold” neck, and wham, I felt the strain immediately. Even more than being bothered by the immediate discomfort, I was surprised at how quickly and easily it happened.
It was a nuisance strain – it really did not hurt, but I felt it in everything I did over the next two weeks, especially working out. However, I learned from this mistake, and now stretch my neck each and every day, and especially prior to a workout.
It has since felt better then ever before!
Neck Stretching Routines
Consistent and effective neck stretching is a critical part of any overall stretching program. The following outlines the steps to follow in your routine, as well as the stretching exercises.
#1 Warm-up – 2 minutes
The first step, prior to any stretches, is to warm-up your muscles and body. This prepares the muscles for stretching. Stretching cold muscles is a surefire way to a painful injury.
Perform some quick and simple cardio for two minutes:
- Jumping jacks
- Gentle walking
- Jump rope
- Jogging in place
#2 Dynamic Stretching – 2 minutes
Start by rolling the neck in a very slow and controlled motion. Move it to down to the chin, then to the left, then to the right. Do this several times, and then roll the neck in a complete circle – 360 all the way around. Then roll the other direction. Slowly increase the speed, but only slightly.
Make sure the neck roll is always a controlled motion, and never bouncy or jerky.
#3 Static Stretching – 2 minutes
There are 6 main static stretches that will improve flexibility, and help you to achieve all of the benefits listed above. Follow the stretches in the order and manner listed. Stretch to the point of slight discomfort, and hold each stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.
Neck Flexion – Stretch the rear neck muscles by moving your chin slowly to your chest. Recover.
Neck Extension – Stretch the front and side neck muscles by moving your head slowly back as if to look at the sky. Recover.
Right rotation – Rotate your chin slowly to your right shoulder. Recover.
Left rotation – Rotate your chin slowly to your left shoulder. Recover.
(For right and left rotations, note the chin brace in the video to achieve a unique power stretch)
Right Lateral Flexion – Move your right ear to the right until facing the shoulder. Recover
Left Lateral Flexion – Move your left ear to the right until facing the shoulder. Recover
Again, make sure to hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and it is critical to never bounce or jerk. The motion is slow, controlled, and fluid.
Tying it All Together
Following a simple neck stretching routine on a consistent basis will greatly improve the flexibility and strength of your neck. This will not only improve your overall wellness and appearance, but also reduce the chance of injury to your neck.
So follow a simple and consistent routine, and avoid these factors that further contribute to neck pain:
- Poor posture
- Tight upper leg and back muscles (link Back Stretch)
- Poor mattress support
- Improper support in your shoes
Avoid these factors above, stand up straight, stretch as shown above, and you should be able to avoid your local orthopedic repair shop!