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A stiff neck isn’t usually a sign of something serious, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you need to live with.

Whether your neck is stiff due to countless hours in front of a screen or a forward-bending activity like gardening or cleaning, you’re probably looking for some way to get rid of it.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can stretch your neck to relieve pain and stiffness, which may be accompanied by muscle spasms, limited mobility, and headache.

Read on to take a look at some of the causes of a stiff neck, as well as some of the most beneficial stretches that you can do add to your routine.

Several factors can contribute to neck stiffness and pain, including everyday causes such as incorrect posture, sitting for extended periods, and activities such as cycling, reading, or driving.

It’s also common to develop computer, tech, or text neck from staring at your device.

Other causes of neck tightness include muscle strains, osteoarthritis, or pinched nerve. Injuries from auto collisions and athletic activities can also contribute to neck pain.

Additionally, diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, or cancer can also contribute to neck pain.

You can do the following stretches to relieve neck pain, tension, and stiffness. They’ll also help to improve flexibility, mobility, and strength.

Do these exercises as part of a longer routine at least once per day. You can also break them down into 5-minute chunks and do them throughout your day.

Be gentle and gradually work your way through the stretches, especially if your neck is sensitive. Stretch as far as you can without forcing yourself through any movement.

It’s natural to feel some sensation, but stop immediately if you experience pain. If you believe you may have injured yourself or the stretches don’t seem to be working, speak with a doctor.

Chin tilts

This pose targets your shoulders and along the front of your neck. If it’s uncomfortable for you to let your head hang back, support your head using a cushion, wall, or prop.

  1. Begin in a comfortable standing or seated position.
  2. Align your head, neck, and spine as your draw your shoulders down and back.
  3. Tilt your chin up as you allow your head to drop back.
  4. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position.
  6. Do 2 to 4 repetitions.

Neck rotation

This stretch targets the sides of your neck and helps to improve your range of motion. Keep your shoulders and hips facing forward throughout the movement.

  1. Slowly rotate your neck to the right.
  2. Gaze over your shoulder.
  3. To deepen the movement, gently press in your chin.
  4. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.
  6. Do each side 2 to 4 times.

Standing forward bend

This pose allows you to release tension in your head, neck, and back. You’ll also loosen up your spine and legs. To deepen this stretch, bend your knees and place your palms facing upward underneath your feet.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart or slightly wider.
  2. Hinge at your hips to lower your torso toward your legs.
  3. Bend your knees to a comfortable degree.
  4. Place your hands on your legs, a block, or the floor.
  5. Draw your chin toward your chest and let your head hang heavy.
  6. Move your head in any comfortable direction.
  7. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  8. Place your hands on your thighs to press yourself up into the starting position.

Cat-Cow Pose

The Cat-Cow Pose incorporates neck flexion and extension, which helps to relieve tension in your head, neck, and back. It also helps to promote body awareness and good posture.

  1. Begin on all fours in tabletop position.
  2. Inhale to expand your belly as it lowers toward the floor.
  3. Gaze upward, lift your chin, and allow your head to tilt back slightly.
  4. Exhale, tuck your chin into your chest, and round your spine toward the ceiling.
  5. Pause here, allowing your head to hang down.
  6. Move your head in any comfortable position to relieve tension.
  7. From here, move between the lower and upper positions at your chosen pace.
  8. Allow your breath to guide the movement.
  9. Continue for at least 1 minute.

Sphinx Pose

This pose lengthens and strengthens your spine, which helps to promote good posture. It also helps correct symptoms of computer or text neck.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your elbows directly under your shoulders.
  2. Extend your forearms in front with your palms facing down.
  3. Engage your lower back, glutes, and thighs to raise your chest and head.
  4. Gaze straight ahead or slightly up toward the ceiling.
  5. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  6. Repeat 1 to 3 times.

Bed hangs

This stretch helps to promote circulation, alleviate tension, and correct imbalances from repeatedly looking or bending forward.

  1. Lie on a bed with your shoulders near the edge.
  2. Gently hang your head back over the edge of the bed.
  3. Place your hands overhead or alongside your body.
  4. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  5. Gently move your head back onto the bed and relax in this position.
  6. Repeat 1 to 2 times.

There are several strategies you can use to prevent neck stiffness. Try out some of these options:

  • Arrange your workstation so that your computer, keyboard, and tools are positioned correctly.
  • Use a standing desk or a variety of work station positions, if possible.
  • Choose a chair that supports the natural curvature of your spine.
  • For every hour of seated work, get up to walk around or do light exercises for at least 5 minutes.
  • Use a pillow that’s designed to prevent and relieve neck pain.
  • Sleep on your side or back with your head and neck positioned in line with your body. Don’t sleep on your stomach since this can cause neck pain. Invest in a firm mattress that may help to provide support and alleviate pain.
  • Be aware of your posture in all positions as you move through your day.
  • Use a backpack or wheeled bag instead of carrying heavy bags on your shoulder.
  • Apply an ice pack or heat to the affected area for 15 minutes at a time.
  • Get a massage.
  • If you’re a smoker, make a plan to stop or cut back.

Doing neck stretches can help you to regain your mobility and full range of motion. This allows you to go about your daily movements with ease, plus you’ll be more comfortable when you sit or stand for extended periods.

To maintain results, continue to do these stretches even after you begin to see improvements. Talk to your doctor if you experience pain that’s long-lasting or doesn’t improve with self-treatment.