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You use your neck virtually all day, every day of your life. So, keeping the muscles in your neck and upper back strong is a priority. When those muscles become weakened, your head can begin to tilt forward and add additional stress to your cervical spine, leading to annoying neck pain and discomfort.
The good news is, when the neck muscles weaken or become stiff, there are a lot of neck strengthening exercises that you can try to improve posture to relieve pain.
Why Do I Have To Strengthen My Neck?
There are a lot of advantages to having a stronger neck. The muscles on the side of the neck—known as the scalene muscles—along with the suboccipital muscles (on the lower back of the head and top of the neck), get the most effective and efficient stretching when weakened neck muscles are worked and strengthened. Doing so helps to maintain posture and rid yourself of unwanted neck pain.
If you’re an athlete or a very active person, chances are you use your neck more than the average Joe. It’s important to have a strong neck to maintain balance and movement through your workouts. It’s also worth noting that knowing how to react to impending force to the neck can better prepare an athlete to react properly. If you use your neck too much, your spinal cord nerves can become damaged, weak, or tired, which will impact the muscles.
When it comes to strengthening neck muscles, having strong jaw muscles is essential to avoid injuries to the head and neck. There are a lot of exercises you can do that will strengthen both your neck and your jaw.
Finally, the overall strength of your neck can have a significant impact on your respiratory system and how well you breathe. All the scalene muscles mentioned previously, in conjunction with the platysma and sternocleidomastoid muscles, work together to contract and make respiration easier, especially during strenuous activity and exercise.
When Should I Start Neck Exercises?
Ideally, you should not wait until you are in extreme pain or discomfort to begin neck muscle exercises. However, many people do not consider them until they absolutely have to.
Assuming you have neck discomfort and want to improve it, it’s important to consult a health professional like a physical therapist before beginning a neck exercise program. The goal in these evaluations is to get an accurate diagnosis and to learn the correct way to implement the exercises. The last thing you want is to end up injured or in more pain.
In certain situations, taking the time to consult a professional may help you figure out the root cause of the problem. Many muscle groups impact the cervical spine and neck, so a practitioner may suggest adding soft tissue work and manual adjustments along with the neck exercises.
Which Neck Exercises Should I Do?
After you have consulted your doctor or medical professional and have the go-ahead to start strengthening your neck, you may begin with some safe exercises. Here are some of the most beneficial neck exercises to relieve pain and improve your posture.
A chin tuck is one of the best exercises to improve your posture and relieve neck pain. This movement will help you strengthen the muscles you often use to pull your head back into alignment while simultaneously stretching important muscles.
To do this exercise, begin by standing with your spine pressed against the frame of a door with your feet out roughly three inches from the bottom of the frame.
- With your spine firmly against the door frame, attempt to pull your head and upper back backward until your head makes contact with the frame. Your chin should be down, so your head is pulled straight back without looking up.
- Keep your head in this position against the door frame for 5-10 seconds.
- Repeat this ten times.
Side-to-Side Neck Tilt
- From a seated position, slowly tilt your head downward until your chin makes contact with your chest.
- Next, tilt your neck in the direction of one of your shoulders, leading with the ear on that side.
- Hold this for five seconds and return to the starting position.
- Do this five times on each side.
Back Burn Exercise
You do this exercise by standing with your back against a flat wall with your feet roughly four inches from the bottom of the wall. Get your head in the same position as the Chin Tuck exercise.
- Stand against the wall with your lower back pressed firmly against it.
- Ensure that the backs of your hands, forearms and elbows are touching the wall and your wrist is near shoulder height (forming a t-shape).
- With all of those body parts making contact with the wall as much as possible, slowly glide your hands up and above your head and then bring them back down.
- Do this ten times, up to five times a day.
- Keeping your posture straight up, stretch your chin forward until you feel a stretch in your throat.
- Hold this position for five seconds.
- From the position you started in, pull your chin back toward your throat/neck and hold for about five seconds.
- Do both forward and backward motions up to five times each.
These are just a few exercises you can do at home to strengthen your neck. If you find yourself needing more of a challenge, or that your neck muscles need a little more resistance, check out the Jawzrsize tools to add more neck strengthening.
Maintaining proper posture and neck strength is critical to avoid permanent and painful complications. Learning how to strengthen the neck properly through neck strengthening exercises is a critical step in avoiding discomfort. Remember, none of these movements should cause you pain, so if they do, call your healthcare provider immediately.