Your healthcare provider may recommend exercises to help you heal. Talk to your healthcare provider or physical therapist about which exercises will best help you and how to do them correctly and safely.
Do these exercises only if you do not have pain or numbness running down your arm or into your hand. Do not do any exercises that make your neck pain worse.
Active neck rotation: Sit in a chair, keeping your neck, shoulders, and trunk straight. First, turn your head slowly to the right. Turn it gently until it starts hurting. Turn it back to the forward position. Relax. Then turn it to the left. Repeat in each direction 10 times.
Active neck side bend: Sit in a chair, keeping your neck, shoulders, and trunk straight. Tilt your head so that your right ear moves toward your right shoulder. Keep tilting until it starts hurting. Then tilt your head in the other direction so your left ear moves toward your left shoulder. Make sure you do not rotate your head while tilting or raise your shoulder toward your head. Repeat this exercise 10 times in each direction.
Neck flexion: Sit in a chair, keeping your neck, shoulders, and trunk straight. Bend your head forward, reaching your chin toward your chest. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Neck extension: Sit in a chair looking ahead. Tilt your head back so that your chin is pointing toward the ceiling and then bring your head back to the starting position. If this exercise is uncomfortable, try placing your hands behind your neck while you look toward the ceiling. Be sure to sit up straight and keep your neck, shoulders, and trunk straight during the exercise. Repeat 10 times.
Chin tuck: Place your fingertips on your chin and gently push your head straight back as if you are trying to make a double chin. Keep looking forward as your head moves back. Hold 5 seconds and repeat 5 times.
Scalene stretch: Sit or stand and clasp both hands behind your back. Lower your left shoulder and tilt your head toward the right until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then come back to the starting position. Then lower your right shoulder and tilt your head toward the left. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each side.
Isometric neck flexion: Sit tall, eyes straight ahead, and chin level. Place your palm against your forehead and gently push your forehead into your palm. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Do 3 sets of 5.
Isometric neck extension: Sit tall, eyes straight ahead, and chin level. Clasp your hands together and place them behind your head. Press the back of your head into your palms. Hold 5 seconds and release. Do 3 sets of 5.
Isometric neck side bend: Sit tall, eyes straight ahead, and chin level. Place the palm of your hand at the side of your temple and press your temple into the palm of your hand. Hold 5 seconds and release. Do 3 sets of 5 on each side.
Head lift with neck curl: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tuck your chin and lift your head about 3 inches off the floor, keeping your shoulders flat on the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times. Try to work up to holding for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat 5 times.
Head lift with neck side bend: Lie on your right side with your right arm lying straight out. Rest your head on your arm, then lift your head slowly toward your left shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Switch to your left side and repeat the exercise, lifting your head toward your right shoulder.
Neck extension on hands and knees: Get on your hands and knees and look down at the floor. Keep your back straight and let your head slowly drop toward your chest. Then tuck your chin slightly and lift your head up until your neck is level with your back. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Scapular squeeze: While sitting or standing with your arms by your sides, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 5 seconds. Do 2 sets of 15.
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Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2015-01-12 Last reviewed: 2015-01-12
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Neck Strain Exercises: References
Dutton M. Dutton’s orthopaedic examination evaluation and intervention; 3rd ed. McGraw Hill Professional; 2012.
Domenech MA, Sizer PS, Dedrick GS, McGalliard MK, Brismee JM.
The deep neck flexor endurance test: normative data scores in healthy adults.