Doing this 2 minute exercise every day can help make your neck feel amazing!
There aren't many exercises that I recommend for everyone, but this one is on the top of my list. If you don't have any underlying health condition that would prevent you from doing neck exercises, doing this one will make a huge difference in how you feel now and in the future. In the U.S. alone, more than a million people suffer with neck pain every day. For some, it's simply a minor annoyance. For others, the pain is debilitating. Affecting everything from their job to their overall quality of life. Stress, poor posture, and decreased physical activity can all lead to tension and pain in the neck, upper back, and shoulders. In many instances, these problems can be completely avoided or treated with some minor lifestyle changes and a simple neck exercise.
One of the biggest contributors to poor posture is improper computer workstation set-up. Many people spend over 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, in front of a computer. This constant strain on the neck and upper back can be detrimental to the spine and muscles that support it. In my article, When the Computer is Causing Your Back Pain: 4 work space changes to save your spine, I provide instructions on how to set up your computer to reduce this strain and prevent spinal problems. In addition to computer set-up, always looking down at a cell phone can also create the same problems. Termed "Text Neck", this can be avoided by holding the phone up higher (so your neck is straight) or simply reducing its use.
To perform the exercise, called the cervical range of motion exercise, sit comfortably in a chair with your head perfectly straight and your shoulders totally relaxed.
Without moving your body and keeping your shoulders relaxed, slowly look up at the ceiling. Allow your head to move as far as it will go. Once you have reached the end of this movement, rest a moment and then try to move your head a little more.
You should feel a stretching of the tissues in the front of your neck. Hold this position for two seconds and then slowly return to your original position. Next, slowly flex your head forward as if you are looking at your belly. Once you have reached the end of this movement, rest a moment and then try and move your head a little farther. You should feel a stretch in the back of your neck and upper back. Hold this position for two seconds and then return to your original position. Next, slowly turn your head to the left as far as it will go. Rest a moment and then try to turn just a little more. You should feel a stretch in the opposite side of your neck and upper back. Hold for two seconds and then slowly turn to the right, repeating the same exercise. Again, hold for two seconds and slowly return to your original position. Finish the exercise by slowly tilting your head to the left as far as it will go (as if you are trying to touch your ear to your shoulder, without raising your shoulder). Rest a moment and then try and go a little farther. You should feel a stretch on the opposite side of your neck and upper back. Hold for two seconds and then slowly repeat the exercise on the other side. Repeat the exercise program twice in a row. The whole process should only take about 2 minutes to complete. When doing the exercise, do not use your hands to assist the movements. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or develop a headache stop the exercise immediately. If you feel a sharp pain in your neck, upper back, shoulders, arms or hands, or experience a pins and needles sensation in your arms or hands, stop the exercise immediately.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, consult with your chiropractor as soon as possible. This exercise can be done many times over the course of the day (especially if you are working in front of a computer) and can be done almost anywhere. Implementing some stress reduction techniques, improving your posture, increasing your physical activity, and doing the cervical range of motion exercise can all have a positive effect on how your neck feels.
It may take a week or two before you start to feel a difference. But, if you are proactive and consistent with making these changes, your neck, upper back, and shoulders will be in much better shape.
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Wishing you good health.