Exercises to Relieve Neck and Shoulder Pain


The neck has a pretty important job – it holds up our head which can weigh in at about 10 pounds. Most of the time we hardly even know the extent of this situation until we get a headache and have trouble holding our head up amidst the pain. Sometimes the pain will travel through the neck area and spread out affecting the shoulders. There are many reasons why you may be experiencing pain in your neck and shoulder so this article will show you ways that you can help relieve your pain in either or both of these areas.

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No matter what is causing your neck or shoulder pain, most health professionals agree that movement through stretching and gentler exercises can help move you past your pain. You should always check with your doctor first before beginning any exercise program. Your physician may suggest you follow a program of exercises through a rehabilitation outpatient facility.

If your doctor gives you the okay to proceed with exercising on your own, this article will give you plenty of guidance and simple movements you can incorporate to create your own routine. Unlike an exercise program meant for weight loss, the exercises provided are not meant to create a slimmer figure but are focused on specific areas of the body to increase the range of motion and reduce chronic pain.

The exercises listed should be performed at your own pace and if they are performed on a regular basis the range of motion will increase and pain will actually begin to lessen. You should always start out with stretching movements to warm up your neck and shoulders before implementing more challenging movements. You may want to use a heating pad before you begin so your muscles will be more relaxed. The application of cold packs afterward will help to reduce any inflammation you may have.

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1. Neck Rotation

Sit comfortably in a chair with arms to your side. Drop your head down aiming your chin to your upper chest. Hold for a count of 5; slowly roll your head to the left with your ear to your shoulder, hold for a count of 5; slowly roll your head back pointing your chin up in the air, hold for a count of 5; slowly roll your head to the right and hold for a count of 5. Perform this stretch two times starting out to the left and two times starting out rolling to the right.


2. Head Lift

Sit or stand in a comfortable position with arms to your sides. Slowly roll your head back and point your chin up to the ceiling; hold for a count of 5. Slowly roll your head forward with your chin resting on your chest; hold for a count of 5. Perform these stretches a total of 5 times.


3. Seated Neck Stretch

Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor and your arms to your sides. Take your right hand and bring it over your head. Clasp the top of your head and gently pull your head to the right side; hold for a count of 10. Release and bring your head back to the center and your arm back to your side. Repeat with your left hand bringing your head to your left side. Do this stretch three times for each side resting in between.


4. Isometric #1 – Back of Head/Hand

Isometric exercises utilize different types of your body to provide the resistance needed to perform specific strengthening postures. In this case, you are going to find a comfortable position sitting or standing. Maintain good posture with your head straight ahead; Take your hand (either one) and place it behind your head. Push back against your hand as you put up resistance to keep your head from moving backward. Hold for a count of 5. Repeat 5 times.

Perform the same exercise as listed above except place your hand on your forehead and use your hand to prevent your head from moving forward. Hold for a count of 5. Repeat 5 times.


5. The Cobra

This exercise is a yoga posture that can help to gently strengthen your neck and even help improve your posture. Lie down on the floor with your face down. You can put a small pillow or a rolled up towel under your forehead. Raise your head off the ground as you move your arms forward so you can place your bent arms right under your shoulder blades. Bring your torso up so it is partially lifted off the floor and your head should drop back gently. Relax your spine so you are able to feel a stretch in your neck. Hold for a count of 5. Return to your original position. Repeat 5 times.


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1. Shoulder Rolls

Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, arms at your sides. Slowly roll your shoulders forward and then backward. Do this exercise gently to open up the shoulders and get them warmed up. Perform this exercise 10 times.


2. Towel Stretch

Stand up straight and hold a towel behind your back grasping it with each hand. Gently use the higher hand to pull the lower hand upward and hold for a count of 5. Switch hands so that the opposite hand raises the other hand upward. Hold each position for a count of 5. Repeat 5 times with each hand.


3. Shoulder Shrugs

Sit in a chair in a comfortable position. Arms at your sides and feet on the floor. Slowly raise your shoulders towards your ears and hold for a count of 5. Return to your original position. Repeat 5 times.


4. Walk the Wall

Stand facing a wall or a door jamb with your arms to your sides. Take your left hand and place it on the door jamb directly in front of you. Slowly use your fingers to walk your hand up the wall. When you get as far as you can, walk your fingers slowly back down the wall. Repeat with the other hand. Do this exercise 7 to 10 times trying to reach higher each time without straining.

You can do this exercise facing the wall as well as standing sideways which will give you an additional stretch. This is particularly effective if you have a frozen shoulder.


5. Overhead Raises

Note: you will need a broom or a cane for this one

Lie down on a bed with your head on a pillow at the end and your knees bent. Raise the broom overhead and try to slowly lower it behind your head. Hold for a count of 5. Return to your original position. Repeat 10 times.


In addition to performing these exercises on a regular basis, you may want to check out the neck and shoulder massagers and neck pillows listed on our site.

If you are a gamer you need to put down your handheld electronics on a regular basis so your neck has a chance to relax. “Text neck” is also becoming a legitimate painful condition so try to incorporate a healthy balance that will prevent your neck from being held in the same position for long periods of time.

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