Like a lot of people I often get pains or “cricks” in my neck at times of stress. But the last few weeks it got really nasty! It was a reminder to me of how to give my neck as much attention as the rest of my body to prevent these problems in the future.
As annoying as neck pain is on its own, stress and tension in the neck muscles can have knock on effects like headaches and TMJ issues. Treatments like massage and acupuncture are very effective when these issues get out of hand. (I recommend Emer McFarlane and Amy Coughlan who I visited recently for the first time) But when it comes to maintenance, it’s important you have some helpful exercises in your pocket to prevent poor posture or weak muscles getting in the way.
The bones in your neck are called your cervical spine, these are the most mobile bones in the spine and should in theory give you a wide range of movement. Sometimes pressure or repetitive misalignment tightens up the muscles that surround this section of the spine. As this persists you can even wear down the cartilage between the bones. Doing my top 5 exercises for the neck will help you to keep those muscles and cartilage in good order.
Step 1: Tense to relax.
Before starting work on any high tension area of the body it’s good to shake off whatever tension or stress has built up through the day.
Start by closing your eyes. Taking a few deep breaths. Unclench your jaw, let your tongue soften, roll back your shoulders and straighten your neck. Then, when you’re ready to take a deep breath in and draw your shoulders up and in towards your neck and ears. Let out a big, fast exhale and drop the shoulders down, releasing them completely.
Step 2: Twist.
Taking this as slowly and as gently as you can draw your neck up long, nod your head slightly and carefully look as far as you can to the right, then all the way back to the right. As you do, notice any areas of sensitivity that crop up, and how far you can look back. You might even find you can look back further on one side than the other!
Step 3: Semi Circles.
Lower your chin down to your chest and let the back of your neck lengthen. Draw your shoulders back and begin to draw a circle with your chin up to your right shoulder, then back over to your left. Move from side to side slowly, taking a breath in as you reach the shoulder, and a breath out as you return to the centre of your chest.
Step 4: Full circle.
Imagine there’s a sheet of paper in front of you and you’re trying to draw a small circle on it with your chin. Draw your circle slowly and carefully around a few times, then go in the opposite direction.
Ear to shoulder.
Keeping your shoulders rolled back and down and your neck long, allow your right ear to draw down to your left shoulder. Let the weight of your head do the work as you feel a stretch across the left side of your neck. Leave it there for a few moments then carefully bring your head up right and repeat on the other side.
Of course, relieving neck pain depends on the balance of your whole body and keeping stress at bay. If you’d like to see the impact of regularly working through your whole body and relieving stress, yoga classes are a perfect way to do that.
October 3, 2018