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The Secret Exercise Tricks for Curing Your Neck Pain

Don't despair if your neck is hurting. Fight back with these tips from a top exercise physiologist.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel

There are plenty of reasons why your neck is hurting. For starters, there are muscle strains, likely caused by your desk job. "Overuse, such as too many hours hunched over your computer or smartphone, often triggers muscle strains," write the experts at The Mayo Clinic. "Even minor things, such as reading in bed or gritting your teach, can strain your neck muscles."

There's also age-induced osteoarthritis, when the cartilage between your vertebrae begin to deteriorate; there's nerve compression, when your bones press against your nerves; and if you've been in an injury that involved whip-lash, you main have strained your neck.

But the most common form of neck pain, which includes staring at your devices for long periods, is a combination of sedentary behavior and terrible posture. "Sitting in the same position for extended periods of time can be a common cause of neck discomfort," says Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN, an exercise physiologist, celebrity trainer, and author of The Micro-Workout Plan: Get the Body You Want without the Gym in 15 Minutes or Less a Day. "Bad posture, especially with forward rounded shoulders, can also be a major issue."

Now, assuming your neck pain isn't cause by disease or a vicious injury, you can assuage it with a few simple exercise and other tips, says Holland, which he's gamely provided below. So read on, and for more things that are doing your body harm, see here to learn What All Those Zoom Calls Are Doing to Your Body, Says New Study.

1

Do This One Stretch

Stretching the neck muscles using your hands. A man in a tank top stretches his neck to relieve office syndrome.

"This is one simple yet extremely effective stretch," says Holland. To do it correctly, place your right palm on top of your head and gently pull your right ear towards your right shoulder. "Hold for 10-30 seconds, then repeat with your left hand to the left side." And for more great exercise advice, check out The 7-Minute Walking Trick That Can Add Years to Your Life.

2

Then Do This Stretch

Thoughtful businesswoman taking a moment to relax leaning back in her chair staring up into the air with her hands behind her head

A second great stretch to do is to drop your head forward and tuck your chin to your chest, and then tilt your head as far back as you can, says Holland. You should do 10-15 repetitions. "You can do these two stretches several times throughout the day to release stress and loosen tight neck muscles," he says.

3

Taking Movement Breaks from Sitting

walking
Shutterstock

Get up every 30 minutes and take a 1-2 minute walk break. If you make it a 10-minute walk, it won't just help your neck and your posture, but it'll also help you gain more self-confidence, lower your risk of death, and improve your focus. For more on why, see The Side Effects of Taking a 10-Minute Walk.

4

Finally, Improve Your Posture

Mature man with poor and good posture.
Shutterstock

"This can be done immediately by doing a posture check," says Holland. You should start by "making sure your shoulders are down and pulled back and your spine is long and tall. For many people, proper posture feels completely unnatural." See above for reference.

Holland also strongly recommends "pulling" exercises at the gym—such as dumbbell rows, which "are great movements to help pull the shoulders back and improve your posture all day long." He also recommends classes "like Pilates, which can also help improve posture and kinesthetic awareness, helping to alleviate neck pain." And for more healthy living advice, check out The 7 Most Underrated Exercises You've Never Tried, Say Experts.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more