If a simple crane of the neck’s got you strained, slouching over smartphones and laptops (hello, tech neck) might be to blame. A stiff neck can also lead to tension headaches and soreness that makes for a pretty uncomfy day.
Here’s how you can use neck stretches to help relieve everyday neck pains.
The 7 best neck stretches for pain and stiffness
If you want to potentially improve your neck and spine function and your day-to-day life, these neck stretches might help:
- Upper trap stretch
- Bow-and-arrow stretch
- Chin tuck
- Neck extension
- Shoulder roll
- Bridge Pose
- Wall angels
Note: If you have any kind of persistent neck pain, make sure you check in with a doctor or physical therapist before trying these stretches.
Neck pain is actually super common — about 1 in 3 people deal with it at some point. But fixing it isn’t as simple as setting down your phone or avoiding computer time. Research shows simply doing stretches might be the answer.
In a 2016 study, office workers with neck pain completed neck and shoulder stretches 5 days a week. After a month, participants experienced reduced pain and better neck function.
If your neck and spine are out of whack, try these stretches for relief.
1. Upper trap stretch
This stretch works to straighten and relax your cervical spine and neck. If you’re experiencing pain, stiffness, or tension — especially if it’s coupled with a “pinched” feeling — this stretch may be just what you need.
- Sit or stand, keeping your upper body straight and tall. Let left hand dangle at your side.
- Use right hand to gently cup the top of your head, right above left ear.
- Slowly and with control, pull your head toward your right shoulder. Wait until you feel a gentle stretch in your neck.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Do 2 or 3 reps per side.
2. Bow-and-arrow stretch
You don’t need to be Katniss Everdeen to benefit from the bow-and-arrow stretch. It targets your shoulders, upper back, lumbar spine, and cervical spine to relieve neck tightness. It’s great for improving spinal mobility, especially after an injury.
- Sit with your best posture, with legs shoulder-width apart and knees bent in front of you.
- Extend both arms in front of you.
- With arms fully extended, bring left elbow into your body like you’re shooting a bow and arrow. (Keep your inner thighs engaged.)
- Begin to shift your body left and extend left arm behind you into a twist.
- Hold for about 10 seconds, then return your left arm in front of you and repeat on the opposite side. Do 3–5 reps on each side.
3. Chin tuck
This stretch reduces tension in your neck muscles by lengthening your neck. It can also improve your head and neck posture. Just watch: You’ll have swan-like grace in no time.
- Sit up straight and tall.
- Gently push your chin to your neck. (Pro tip: You should prob have a double chin if you’re doing it right.)
- Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
- Repeat 3–5 times.
4. Neck extension
The neck bend is another pose that’s perfect for relieving tension in your neck. At the very least, it should provide some temporary relief. Over time, it may improve your posture and mobility.
- Sit up straight. Gently move your head backward, looking up at the sky.
- Hold for about 5 seconds, then return to the starting position
- Repeat 5–10 times.
5. Shoulder roll
When in doubt, roll it out. Shoulder rolls relieve tension in your shoulders and neck. They can especially help relieve a tension headache or pain from a pinched nerve.
- With good posture, lift your shoulder blades up. Roll them back down.
- Repeat 5 or 6 times.
- Repeat in the opposite direction.
6. Bridge Pose
Bridge Pose stretches the back of your neck, relieving tension and tightness. It also stretches your chest, shoulders, and spine for greater flexibility and optimal alignment.
- Lie on your back with arms at your sides, palms down.
- Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor, hip-width apart.
- Press your feet and palms into the floor to lift your hips.
- Take a deep inhale and lift your hips a little higher. Stay in this position for at least 30 secs, keeping your core tight throughout the exercise.
- Slowly lower to the floor, booty first.
7. Wall angels
If performed repeatedly, wall angels can bless you with better posture. Since poor posture is at the root of many back, neck, and headache probs, you’ll be soaring to stress-free heights in no time.
- Stand with your back flat against a wall. Ideally, your feet should touch the wall, but get your heels as close to the wall as you can to complete the stretch.
- Now, make like an angel: Extend your arms to make a “T” against the wall. Then bend your elbows to make a 90-degree angle.
- Move your arms up and down in that classic snow angel motion. Just be sure to keep your “wings” glued to the wall as you flutter.
- Do 3 sets of 10 reps.