Exercises: Neck Stretches & StrengtheningOpen print version

Overview

Exercise is a vital part of treating the spine after injury or surgery. Active therapeutic exercises distribute nutrients into the disc space, joints and soft tissues in the neck. A regular exercise routine helps patients improve mobility and strength, minimize recurrence, and reduces the severity and duration of possible future episodes of neck and arm pain.

What exercises help maintain a healthy back?

Exercises can be divided into three basic groups:

  • Strengthening: repeated muscle contractions until the muscle becomes tired.
  • Stretching or Flexibility: slow, sustained lengthening of the muscle.
  • Low-impact Aerobic: steady exercise using large muscle groups.
  • All of these exercises should be performed slowly and comfortably to avoid injury. Remember to breathe naturally and without holding your breath; exhale during exertion and inhale during relaxation.

    We strongly recommend that you consult with your physician or physical therapist before beginning any exercise program. The following are general exercises for those with neck and arm symptoms. Modifications may be necessary for specific spine conditions. DO NOT ignore pain. If you feel increased pain or pain spreading to the shoulder and arm, do not continue the activity.

    Exercises: Neck Stretches

    Photo 1 Upper Trapezius Stretch

    1. Upper Trapezius Stretch: Sit up tall with good posture keeping shoulders down. Grasp the bottom of the seat with one hand. Slightly turn your ear to your shoulder until a comfortable stretch is felt on the opposite side of the neck. Hold that position for 20 seconds. Repeat to each side 3 times. Perform this exercise 2 times per day.

    Photo 2 Levator Scapular Stretch

    2. Levator Scapular Stretch: Sit up tall with good posture keeping shoulders down. Grasp the bottom of the seat with one hand. Slightly turn your chin toward your armpit until a comfortable stretch is felt on the opposite side of the neck. Hold that position for 20 seconds. Repeat to each side 3 times. Perform this exercise 2 times per day.

    Photo 3 neck rotation

    3. Neck Rotation: Rotate head gently and slowly from side to side. Do not turn head completely to either side, keep motion small. Keep chin level with ground without letting chin drop to chest. Repeat 10 times. Perform this exercise 2 times per day.

    Photo 4 Doorway stretch

    4. Doorway Stretch: Stand in a doorway with hands and arms out to the side as shown in picture. Keep forearms flat on door frame. Take one step forward with one leg to feel a comfortable stretch in chest region. Hold that position for 10-20 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Perform this exercise 2 times per day.




    Exercises: Neck Strengthening

    Photo Shoulder Scapular Squeeze

    1. Shoulder Scapular Squeeze: Squeeze your shoulder blades together as shown in the picture. Hold 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Only squeeze hard enough to encourage good posture, not to create pain or discomfort. Perform this exercise 2 times per day

    Photo, Wall Push Up

    2. Wall Push Up: Start with feet approximately shoulder width apart. Place hands against wall slightly below shoulder level and elbows straight as shown in the picture. Bend elbows while keeping head in a neutral position. Repeat 10 times with 1-2 sets. Perform this exercise 2 times per day.

    Photo, Theraband row

    3. Therabandâ„¢ Rows: Place Theraband around a doorknob, or tie a knot in the Theraband and close it in the door. Anchor the band at chest level. Stand tall with each end of Theraband in your hands, knees slightly bent, abdominal muscles tight. Maintaining tight trunk muscles, pull arms back while squeezing shoulder blades together. Focus on squeezing the shoulder blades without shrugging the shoulders up towards the ears. Return to starting position. Do not lean back. Repeat 20 times. Perform 2 times per day.

    Photo, Prone Rows

    4. Prone Rows: Lie on your stomach with your arms dangling off the side of the bed (try angling your body so your head is facing the corner of your bed). Use a pillow under your stomach for comfort. Begin by pulling arms back while bending elbows and squeezing shoulders blades together then slowly return to starting position. Do not lift head up while pulling arms back. Repeat 20 times. Perform 2 times per day.

    Sources & links

    If you have more questions, please contact Mayfield Brain & Spine at 800-325-7787 or 513-221-1100.


    updated > 1.2017
    reviewed by > Lisa Cleveland, PT, Mayfield Clinic, Cincinnati, OH

    Mayfield Certified Health InfoMayfield Certified Health Info materials are written and developed by the Mayfield Clinic. This information is not intended to replace the medical advice of your health care provider.


    Mayfield services

    We strive to manage patients as conservatively as possible. Exercise and physical therapy strengthen back and stomach muscles and prevent pain and injury.

    At Mayfield, patients who come to us with neck and back problems are given a rapid review of their medical condition within a few days ... not weeks. It's a treatment process called Priority Consult.

    To make an appointment call 513-221-1100.