11 Stretches to Relieve Neck and Shoulder Tension
A stiff neck and tight shoulders are very well known issues for many of us. The good thing is that if this pain is caused by stress, bad sitting habits, or lack of activity, regular stretching can make a big difference and even give you permanent relief. The key word is regular. Consistency is the key for success.
We at Bright Side found a few very effective stretches that may help you with neck and shoulder pain.
1. Neck roll
This is a very gentle stretch used to release tension around your neck.
- Roll a towel;
- Place it at the base of your head;
- Let your head fall back toward the floor and relax.
- Stay in this position for about 10 minutes unless you feel any sort of pain.
2. Clasping neck stretch
This exercise provides a deep stretch for the back of your neck and your upper back.
- Begin by sitting comfortably in a chair or on the floor;
- Clasp your hands behind your head;
- Gently pull your head down bringing the chin toward the chest;
- Hold for 30-40 seconds, and then slowly return your head to the initial position and release your hands.
3. Lateral neck flexion stretch
This stretch targets the sides of your neck.
- Begin by sitting comfortably on the floor or in a chair;
- Place your right hand on the top of your head and gently pull it to your right;
- Keep the back straight and shoulders relaxed;
- Hold for 30-40 seconds and then slowly lift your head back to the initial position;
- Repeat on the other side.
4. Upper trapezius stretch
This stretch involves both the neck and the shoulders.
- Begin by putting the right arm behind you and grabbing it with your left hand;
- Pull the hand gently toward your left foot;
- Tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder;
- Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
You can also do the same stretch by keeping your hands in front of you, this way you also get a good upper trapezius stretch, but from a slightly different angle.
5. Levator scapulae stretch
This stretch targets the side of the neck and the shoulders.
- Begin by sitting on a chair and holding the chair from behind with one hand;
- Tip your chin toward the chest and tip your ear toward your left shoulder;
- Rotate your head 45° to the right and then to the left. You can put your other hand over your head to help, but don’t force it, all movements should be very gentle;
- Hold on each side for 20-30 seconds and then change sides.
6. Thread the needle
This stretch releases the tension in the upper back and between the shoulder blades. All moves should be smooth and soft.
- Begin by getting on your hands and knees;
- Then slide the left arm with the palm up between your right arm and legs, rotating your body until your head touches the ground;
- Hold for 30-40 seconds then repeat on the other side.
7. Shoulders roll
This movement releases tension around the shoulders.
- Begin in a sitting or standing position, keep the back and neck straight;
- Lift the shoulders up and then roll them back and down;
- All movements should be smooth. Keep the chin tucked, making a double-chin.
8. Cross-body arm stretch
This is a good stretch not only for your biceps, but also for your shoulders.
- Begin by standing with your feet shoulder width apart;
- Cross your left arm across your chest;
- Use your right hand to pull your left arm just above the elbow closer to your body;
- Hold for 10-20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
9. Cow-face pose
This stretch targets multiple muscles, including the shoulders.
- Begin by raising your left arm straight, then bend it, and bring it behind your head;
- Bring your right hand behind your back, reach up, and grab your left hand;
- Hold for 10 seconds, then release the hands, and repeat on the other side.
If you can’t reach the fingertips of the other hand, use a towel to help. Hold the towel with the hand that is above your head and grab it with the other hand, creating a gentle pull.
10. Straight-arm wall stretch
This stretch is great for tense shoulders.
- Begin by placing your left arm against the wall, palm facing the wall or ceiling, however you feel more comfortable;
- Press the shoulder to the wall;
- Slightly move the chest away from the wall, creating a gentle stretch;
- Hold for 30-40 seconds and repeat on the other side.
11. Double anterior shoulder stretch
This is a very deep shoulder stretch.
- Begin by standing up straight;
- Clasp your hands behind your back;
- Raise your arms up until you feel a stretch;
- Hold for 30-40 seconds, repeat 3 times.
- You may bend forward if you need a deeper stretch.
Do you have any other favorite stretches for the neck and shoulders? Tell us about them in the comments below and share this article with your friends.
Illustrated by Natalia Tylosova for BrightSide.me