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How to avoid that pain in the neck

For Sally's exercise column. A deep stretch for the sides of your neck by Patricia Green.
For Sally's exercise column. A deep stretch for the sides of your neck by Patricia Green.
Published Sep. 26, 2016

Enjoy hearing from readers! This article is a result of one of those readers sending me an email expressing an interest in exercises for stretching neck muscles.

No wonder necks might want to be stretched. When you think about it, that head the neck supports weighs about 10 or 11 pounds. When you hold tension in the neck, then add bad posture, causing your head and neck to be out of alignment, your poor neck has been subjected to a lot of trauma.

And it isn't just the neck that is carrying all that tension and discomfort. Spending prolonged periods of time at a computer, walking with rounded shoulders, slumping in your car seat and poor sleeping habits can cause tightness and discomfort in your neck, as well as in your shoulder and back muscles.

Tips for reducing neck tension

• Check your "pillow posture." Sleeping on too many pillows can cause the neck to bend in an unnatural position, creating too much stress on the neck. Your head and neck should be aligned with the rest of your spine. The best sleeping position for a balanced spine is on your side or back.

• Use foam rollers to massage out trigger points. You can find them in most stores that carry exercise equipment. Look for a full-length foam roller that is 6 inches in diameter. Check with a personal trainer or physical therapist before using a roller.

• As a preventive, take breaks from being in a static position and move around. Stretch the neck, shoulders and back muscles several times a day during these breaks.

• Warm up your muscles before stretching. Stretching after a long hot shower will loosen the muscles, which is great for a morning or evening stretch. For a warmup during the day, spend a few moments performing cardio movements such as jogging in place, marching or pretending you are jumping rope.

• Never stretch to the point of pain.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.