Alleviate Neck Pain and Improve Rotation with this Simple Stretch

Alleviate Neck Pain and Improve Rotation with this Simple Stretch


Neck pain can be truly debilitating and impacts your ability to fully enjoy the activities you love to do.  Yesterday a good friend of mine had to limit herself from doing an exercise movement at our workout due to re-occurring neck pain around her upper trapezius muscle.  It was difficult for her to turn her head equally side-to-side, and trying to take any kind of weight overhead created intense muscle spasm.  If you've experienced this, you're well familiar with how scary a situation and feeling can be.  Of course all you'd want to do is stop and protect yourself.

This kind of neck pain is common and can be brought on from just about any kind of postural imbalance.  The reality is the most common cause of neck and shoulder pain is the result of movements performed day after day that are habitually out of balance.  

As soon as your pelvis shifts out of position (for any reason), there will be a corresponding effect throughout the rest of the spine, neck and head.  So over time, even the simplest of activities like bending down to tie a shoe, or reaching overhead to put something in or out of a cabinet can set us up for chronic pain when we have poor posture.

Most often I find that people assume the pain is from the exercise they are trying to do.   Professionally, I have to disagree.  The reality is, as explained above. it really is due to most of our day-to-day static postures and the way it impacts our joint kinematics as a result.  When we go to exercise, and we've done nothing to CORRECT the muscle imbalances, they body only has one option to get the job done.  Find the path of least resistance, which means you move through compensations until acute or chronic pain sets in.

That said, the body has an innate ability to heal if you remove the muscle imbalances and re-train joint kinematics.   After we finished up our workout, I pulled my friend aside to shows her one quick corrective exercise to address the muscle imbalance across the shoulders, neck and head to help alleviate the pain.  What I wanted to convey to her was how important neck and shoulder pain can be alleviated with simple corrective exercise movements like the one I'm about to show you.

First and foremost, please use the information in this video for educational purposes only.  Do not diagnose or self-treat, and talk to your health-care provider BEFORE trying the exercise.

In this video you'll learn about rotation, the movements side-to-side in the neck.  Very often, this is the first movement that is affected when there is an imbalance/dysfunction in the shoulder girdle.  This is a great exercise to do remind the neck that it is free to rotate (turn) without the shoulder getting involved in the process.  It is one of those "so simple, it's profound" kind of movements, and really can alleviate a lot of neck problems.

Simple Neck Stretch to Alleviate Pain and Improve Rotation

  1. Lie down on your front with the forehead resting on the floor (use a towel or small pad if needed for support).  Arms are long resting down by the hips with palms facing the floor.  The legs about shoulder/hip distance apart.
  2. Turn the head as far as you can and rest it down.  Hold for 5-10 seconds while taking a purposeful diaphragmatic breath.  Come out of the movement slowly, returning to center then repeat on the other side.
  3. Do 4-5 repetitions on each side.
  4. NOTE:  you may notice that there is a small to significant muscular response in the shoulder and upper back area.  Take your time and allow this muscular response to occur (meaning, do not brace or flinch).  You'll find that after the first few repetitions, this response is significantly reduced or is alleviated all together.

Variations to increase the range of motion:  

  • Add the opposite arm up to a "goal post" or 90 degree angle.  
  • Add the opposite arm up to the temple, rotating AWAY from the hand.  
  • Add the opposite arm up to the temple, rotating TOWARD the hand.

The weight of your head combined with the the rotation and laying in the prone position provides a passive stretch and opportunity for the surrounding musculature to re-balance.  Things to keep in mind.

  • The site of the pain is usually not the source of the pain (symptom vs condition)
  • The activities we do are not always the cause of our pain (muscle imbalance affects ability to perform)
  • The body is a unit and must be treated as one (the neck should move freely of the shoulder)
  • Misaligned posture and habitual movement patterns cause pain
  • Posture and pain can be improved quickly

If you have shoulder or neck pain, it is so important to remember that YOU are more than just a symptom.  Your body works as an integrated until.  Treating the symptom without addressing the whole body to isolated find the underlying cause of pain is by far the best solution when it comes to re-occurring acute or chronic pain.

I hope you enjoyed this little gem of a corrective exercise.  Give it a try and let me know what you think by posting a comment below or on my Facebook page.   Feel free to forward and share it with someone who you think may benefit from it, and if you need help evaluating your posture and movement patterns and figuring out what combination of corrective exercises are right for you, please reach out to connect with me.  

Stock Photo Credit:

Head Photo Credit:  Ruby and Roxy Photography

Author:  Deb Preachuk is a Corrective Exercise & Posture Alignment Specialist, Certified Foundation Training Instructor and the founder/owner of Pain Free Posture MN.   Follow Deb on Facebook, TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn, or subscribe to her YouTubePinterest or Instagram pages.