Feeling Tense? 5 Best Exercises for Neck Pain

Do you have to deal with recurring neck tension or upper back pain? A stiff neck and neck pain can be caused by weak muscles poor posture or degenerative changes to the cervical spine. The result is stiff muscles in your neck and shoulders, pain and it can even lead to limited mobility. Neck tension and pain can occur for several reasons.

Causes of neck pain

  • Poor posture: constant strain on your head and neck due to incorrect positions, movements and permanent stress at work, in your daily life or when exercising
  • Mental stress: psychological strain
  • Weak immune system: for example, due to a cold
  • Accidents and injuries: for example, whiplash or a pulled muscle

The main reason for neck tension and pain is often a lack of mobility of the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine is designed to move in the form of rotations (turning), flexions (bending) and extensions (straightening). However, the opposite is often the case in daily life. Many of us spend our workdays sitting at our desk, which limits the functional mobility of the spine. This especially happens when we work from home; our movement might be limited to walking from our chair to the couch or from the kitchen to the bathroom. 

But don’t worry, in the case of acute neck tension, there are a number of methods you can use to relieve the pain. The following five exercises improve the mobility and the flexibility of your thoracic spine. Giving yourself a myofascial massage with the help of tennis balls or fascia (foam) rollers is another good way to release muscle tension. And the best part is, you can do these neck exercises any time, anywhere.

5 best exercises to effectively eliminate neck pain:

1. Fascia roll/tennis ball: Upper and middle back

Starting position:
Lie on your back. Place the foam roller under your back at the height of your shoulder blades. Raise your hips off the floor and engage your abs and glutes. Make sure that your hips, back and neck form a straight line. Put your hands behind your head to support your neck.

How to do the exercise:
Slowly roll back and forth to massage your back muscles and mobilize your spine.

Variation:
You can use a tennis or a golf ball to target specific painful spots. Maintain pressure on particularly painful spots for 20 to 40 seconds until the pain subsides.

2. Standing AWTUVI exercise

Starting position:
Stand with your back to a wall. Your arms and your entire spine should be touching the wall and your arms should form the letter “A”. Pull your shoulder blades back and down. Press against the wall with your shoulders, elbows and wrists.

How to do the exercise:

Move your arms through the various positions to form the different letters.

  • In the second position, bend your elbows and move them up to chest level to form a W.
  • Stretch your arms out to the side at the level of your chest/shoulders to form a T
  • Bend your elbows 90 degrees and raise them to shoulder level to form a U
  • Straighten your elbows and raise your arms diagonally above your head to form a V
  • Stand with your arms raised directly above your head to form an I

Repeat the exercise several times and try to let each position flow into the next.

3. Prone AWTUVI exercise

Starting position:
Lie on your stomach. Place your arms at your side with your elbows slightly bent.

How to do the exercise:
Perform the exercise in the same way as the standing position, but this time in the prone position. Repeat the exercise several times.

4. Sitting T-spine rotation with foam roller

Starting position:
Sit on a chair. Keep your upper body straight and lace your hands behind your head with your elbows pointing out. Put the foam roller between your thighs. Press your thighs together to stabilize your hips.

How to do the exercise:
Turn your head, elbow, shoulder girdle and thoracic spine to the side. While still in this position, tilt your upper body to the side. Repeat the exercise several times.

5. Quadruped T-spine rotation

Starting position:
Get on all fours. Place your hands shoulder-width apart with your elbows slightly bent. Keep your knees hip-width apart. Your body should be parallel to the floor. Put one hand behind your head.

How to do the exercise:
Open up your upper body to the same side as the hand behind your head. Then lower that bent elbow towards the base elbow. Repeat the movement several times. Then switch sides. Make sure to keep your hips still and square to the ground the entire time.

My tip:

The mobility, flexibility and strengthening exercises described above can only effectively stretch and loosen up specific areas of your shoulders, back and neck if you perform each exercise through the entire range of motion!

If you spend a lot of time sitting, whether it’s at your computer or looking at your phone, these neck exercises are a great way to relieve neck pain and tension in your upper back. Rolling your shoulders backwards and forwards then lifting them up and pushing them down several times a day is often enough to prevent a stiff neck. 

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