Pain in the body, especially neck, shoulder and upper back pain, is something that nobody wants to experience.
However, working at a desk all day, sitting in the car for long periods of time, or even sleeping in the wrong position make many people today deal with these types of pain.
In most cases, people rely on ibuprofen to treat their pain. However, these pills provide only short-term effects. Therefore, you should try to relieve neck and shoulder pain in a natural way.
Common Causes of A Stiff Neck and Tight Shoulders
Weak neck muscles can lead to a stiff neck. Typically, it is characterized by soreness and difficulty moving the neck, particularly if you try to turn your head to the side.
Causes of a stiff neck:
- Poor posture
- Excessive stress
- Sports injuries
- Cervical spine disorders
- Repeatedly turning the head from side to side
- Holding the neck in an abnormal position for a long period
- Muscle sprain or strain
- Sleeping with the neck in an awkward position
Also, you can experience a stiff neck as a result of tight shoulders of upper back pain, which are typically caused by poor posture.
The good news is that with the proper stretches and strengthening exercises, you will relieve the pain in your neck, shoulder and upper back.
1. Chin Tucks
This exercise can improve the flexibility of the neck. It can reduce pressure on the spinal nerves and eliminate headaches caused by tight sub-occipital muscles.
You should sit up straight. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and place the index finger on the middle of the chin. Look forward and press backwards.
You should tuck in your chin, making sure to bring it backward in a direction to your spine. When you feel a stretch (without pain) you should stop. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Do 3 repetitions.
2. Cow-Face Pose
This exercise will open up tight shoulders and allow you get complete muscle release.
Start on all fours. Cross the right knee over the left, and make sure to stack one on top of the other. Sit down between your legs, making sure your buttocks are on the ground. If your hips are too tight, rest on a block or blanket.
Breathe in, and reach your right arm out to the side. Rotate the arm inward so the thumb will face the floor. Exhale the arm behind the back.
Bend your elbow and move your hand up in a direction to the neck. Roll the right shoulder back and down. Breathe in and reach the left arm forward, palm facing up. Draw your arm towards the ceiling.
Breathe out and bend your elbow. You should reach to grasp the finger of your opposite hand. If your fingers do not clasp, use a strap or towel. Hold for 20-30 seconds then repeat the same procedure on the other side. Perform 3 repetitions for each arm.
3. Cross-Body Arm Stretch
This exercise will reduce stiffness and pain and increase the range of motion.
First, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then, bring one of the arms across the body at chest-level. Lock that arm and use the other arm to stretch it.
Hold for 10 seconds then repeat on the other side. Do 5-10 repetitions.
4. Straight Arm Wall Stretch
This one will stretch muscles in the front of the shoulder and rotator cuff area. It improves your posture, thus reducing strain on the shoulder and neck.
You should flatten your arm against a wall, making sure the palm is facing the wall and the arm is parallel to the floor.
Keep your shoulder pressed to the wall then gradually move your chest away from the wall. Your shoulders should be perpendicular to the arm. Hold for 30-60 seconds then repeat on the other side.
5. Thread The Needle
This pose provides relief in the case of stiffness and pain in the back, neck, or shoulders.
Begin on your knees and hands. Slide the right hand between the left knee and left hand. Slide the arm to the left so that your right shoulder and side of your head will rest on the ground.
Breathe in and reach the left hand up in a direction to the sky. Find your deepest stretch, stay there and reach through your fingers. Breathe and hold for 3-6 breaths. Repeat on the other side. Do 3 repetitions on each side.
6. Reverse Prayer Pose
This pose is excellent for the upper back. It opens up the chest and it is particularly helpful for people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist pain.
It loosens tight shoulder muscles and relaxes your shoulder blades, thus reducing neck and shoulder pain.
Begin in a standing or seated position, spine long. Breathe in and on your exhale, you should bring the arms behind you, fingers pointing in a direction of the floor, palms lightly together.
Breathe in and rotate the arms so that the fingers point towards you, then to the ceiling. Breathe out, and press your pinkie fingers into the back while pressing the palms together. Hold for 5-6 breaths. Repeat 3-4 times.
7. Side Neck Stretch
This stretch is excellent for targeting the side of your neck.
Begin with your shoulders relaxed. Tilt your head in a direction of your right shoulder. With a gentle pull on the side of the head assist your head. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Do 3 repetitions on each side.
8. Cat And Cow Pose
This pose can stretch and lengthen the back torso and the neck. Also, it opens and creates space throughout the whole neck.
Being with your knees and hands on the ground, with your palms under the shoulder rand knees below the hips. Inhale and as you arch your back up like a stretching cat, pull your abdominal muscles.
Let your head and tailbone drop down in a direction to the ground. Return back to the beginning position. Extend the upper part of the spine upwards, making sure to support it with your abdominal muscles.
However, do not let your neck sink into the shoulders, or your shoulders crunch up into the neck. Don’t let the head fall back and make sure your neck is a long extension of the spine. Do 5 repetitions.
9. Stretch For Tight Painful Trapezius Muscles
This exercise helps you trick the brain into relaxing the trapezius muscles.
Stand straight, (choose whatever side is hurting you) and lift the right shoulder blade up. Pull it backwards and lean your head back.
Then, take the right ear and move it over to the right shoulder. Look up away from the right shoulder and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat a few times a day.
10. Double Anterior Shoulder Stretch
This exercise will release tight shoulder joints and the pressure in the area of the shoulder that meets the neck.
Begin in a standing position. Clasp the hands behind your lower back. Keep your arms extended and raise them behind you until you feel a stretch across the chest and through the front of each shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds.
If you can, flip your hands so the palms will face outward. This requires a lot of flexibility but it will give you a deeper stretch. Do not bend forward. Also, make sure not to force the stretch. Do 3 repetitions.
11. Neck Ball Squeeze and Roll
This stretch helps loosen up and stretch out tight muscles in the neck area and upper back.
To find out how to do this exercise, check out the video above at 2:00.
12. Chest Foam Rolling
A tight chest from rounding forward can lead to shoulder and neck pain. This exercise will relax tight chest muscles. You should lie on your stomach parallel adjacent or parallel to the foam roller.
With your palm facing down, try to reach your arm out to the side.
Place the foam roller on the inside of the armpit and shoulder and gradually roll outward. You should stop at the first tender area. Hold for 30 seconds then move to the next tender area. Roll the rest of the chest.
However, if you don’t want to roll across the entire chest area, switch to the other armpit side.
13. Doorway Stretch
This amazing stretch will open up the chest to prevent slouching, which in turn will prevent neck and shoulder strain.
You should stand inside a doorway with the right arm bent at 90-degree angle. The forearms should be placed against the doorframe. Place the bent elbow at shoulder height.
Another alternative is to grab the doorframe with your hand. You can see in the picture above. Rotate your chest to the left and do this until you feel a stretch in the front shoulder and chest. Hold for 20 seconds then repeat with the other arm.
14. Cervical Rotation
This exercise is effective for maintaining or increasing the flexibility of the neck.
Start sitting in a chair in an upright position. Your back should be straight. Turn your head to look as far as you can over one shoulder.
Hold for 2-3 seconds then release back to the initial position. Repeat on the other side. Make sure not to allow your head to tilt while you turn it.
15. Upper Trapezius Release Exercise
Last but not least, this exercise will prevent excessive contracture and spasm and help muscle fatigue.
You should place your arms at sides. Face your palms forwards and relax everything else. Move your shoulders up to your ears, and squeeze up high.
You may experience a little pain, but make sure to hold for 3-4 seconds. Perform 10-12 repetitions. Afterwards, shake your shoulders out.