How Do You Relax Your Neck Muscles?

As more and more of our lives move online, complaints about neck pain have increased dramatically. If you are experiencing neck pain, know that you are not alone; millions of people all over the world are dealing with similar issues. Muscle tension is common and develops due to repetitive movements, injuries, and most commonly, poor posture. Luckily, there are many simple ways to prevent neck pain and provide some relief, from yoga stretches to the best neck massagers.

How do you relax your neck muscles
Neck pain
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How Do You Relax Your Neck Muscles With Yoga?

Yoga has been shown to provide many health benefits to its practitioners, including tension relief. Improving flexibility and strength can help provide relief by correcting your posture. Here are some simple stretches you can do at home to loosen up your neck and shoulder muscles. 

Forward and Backward Tilt

This stretch can be performed either by standing or sitting. It is important to keep your stretches smooth and slow so your muscles have time to relax and adjust to each position. Harsh and fast movements could risk further damage.

  • Start with good posture, where your head is over your shoulders and your spine is straight.
  • Slowly lower your chin to your chest. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds. Relax, then slowly lift your head to its original position.
  • Gently tilt your head back as far as you can go without feeling discomfort. You should be looking at the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax, then slowly return your head to its original position. 
  • Repeat several times throughout the day.

Side Tilt

This stretch is done standing. Keep your feet hip-width apart, meaning your pelvis should be right over your feet. Your arms can stay down by your sides.

  • Start by relaxing your shoulders. Make sure they aren’t raised subconsciously. Slowly tilt your head to your right shoulder and stop when you feel the stretch in the left side of your neck. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • Return to your original position. Check once again to make sure your shoulders are still lightly pressed down.
  • Repeat on the left side. 
  • Continue with several sets. Do not do more than 10 repetitions.
  • Bonus: For an extra stretch, gently place your hand on the top of your tilted head and press lightly with your fingers. When you tilt right, use your right hand. When you tilt left, use your left hand.

Side Rotation

This stretch can be performed either seated or standing.

  • Start with good posture, where your head is over your shoulders and your spine is straight.
  • Turn your head to the right until you feel a stretch in the left side of your neck and shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  • Return to your original position. Repeat to the left.
  • You can do up to 10 sets.

Shoulder Roll

This stretch is most beneficial when done standing up, but can be performed sitting down as well.

  • Start with good posture. Raise your shoulders so that they almost touch your ears. Move them forward and begin a circular motion.
  • Repeat 6 times, then return to your original position.
  • Repeat for another 6 times, but this time have your circles go backward.

Forward Neck Stretch

This stretch can be performed standing or sitting.

  • Interlace your fingers and place them on the back of your head. 
  • Keeping your shoulders and arms relaxed, pull your elbows so that they face forward
  • Gently pull your head down towards your chest.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

This stretch must be done standing up.

  • Start with good posture, keeping your feet hip distance apart..
  • Slowly use your muscles to squeeze your shoulder blades together behind the body. Imagine they are moving toward your spine.
  • Hold for 5 seconds, then release.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

Standing Push-ups

This stretch must be done standing up.

  • Position yourself an arm’s length away from a wall with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Place your hands on the wall so that they are directly in line with your shoulders.
  • While maintaining good posture, slowly bend your elbows so that your upper body moves towards the wall.
  • Gently return to your starting position. Repeat 5-10 times.

Other Remedies to Try

While yoga has been proven to be the most successful at relieving neck pain, you might find that supplementing these exercises with other methods will be helpful. Here is a list of ideas to consider.

  • Try a neck massager
  • Using a cold compress to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Applying a warm compress to help relax tense neck muscles by using a heating pad or rice sock for 8-10 minutes
  • Taking OTC pain relievers to reduce mild-to-moderate muscle pain such as Tylenol
  • Taking OTC anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) or naproxen (such as Aleve)
  • Invest in a better mattress
  • Hydrotherapy, where you use water and steam to massage and relax your neck. This can be done by taking an Epsom salt bath, or standing under a hot shower and letting the jets massage your neck
  • Try a massage chair
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting a massage
  • Changing sleeping positions so that you can use your pillow to support your neck without overstretching it or putting it in uncomfortable positions
  • Visiting a chiropractor or a physical therapist. If your pain and tension persist even after exploring all of these options, consider scheduling an appointment with a licensed practitioner. They will be able to help assess the problem and develop a plan suited to your individual needs such as lifestyle changes and posture habits for preventative care

While neck tension and pain can become uncomfortable, there are many ways to relax your neck muscles, as well as many different tools at your disposal to use. However, keep in mind that if your neck pain becomes unmanageable or feels like a symptom of something more serious, always check with your doctor to make sure it is not indicative of a larger health concern. As for the mild, everyday neck irritation, these yoga poses and suggestions will get you on your way to better posture and less tense muscles.

Written by Samantha Spada

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