Exercises for the neck

Physical exercises for the neck are a solution to neck pain in many treatment programs.

Therapy for the neck consists of a combination of:

  • Strain
  • muscle strengthening,
  • aerobic training
  • Treatment of trigger points (hardened muscle or fascia zones that hurt to the touch).

If the exercises are performed correctly, you can:

  • expand the circle of motion of the cervical vertebrae
  • strengthen the muscles that support the cervical spine.

Postural gymnastics may not be carried out exclusively in a gym. Even at home, repetitions must be done to eliminate neck stiffness.

The following are some situations in which a treatment program should be initiated:

  • Neck
  • Torticollis
  • Whiplash
  • Arthritis, for example rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cervical osteoarthritis
  • Herniated disc (disc hernia)
  • For muscle strengthening
  • Posture correction
  • Increasing the flexibility of the neck
  • To wake up in the morning without neck pain

Many patients with hyperlordosis of the cervical spine ask me how to reduce lordosis. Usually it is an adaptation of the body to dorsal hyperkyphosis.
In this case, one must try to treat the back to change the posture.


Benefits of gymnastic exercises for the neck

Chronic (recurrent) pain can be very distressing and also accompanied by:

  • dorsal complaints (on the upper back),
  • discomfort on the shoulder blade,
  • Headache.

These symptoms are associated with tense muscles and stiff joints. They therefore cause pain even during simple daily activities.

Stretching to reduce symptoms
Stretching exercises can expand or maintain the “range of motion” and elasticity of the cervical joints and thus:

  • reduce pain,
  • Reduce stiffness.

You should stretch the neck every day and also several times a day.
In this way, one also achieves a relaxation of the muscles.

Strengthening the muscles in physiotherapy
The special muscle building exercises help to maintain or improve good posture.
Such an improvement reduces recurrent flare-ups of ailments or completely eliminates them. Strengthening exercises should be done every other day to give the muscles a recovery time.
When these exercises are performed in a sitting position on a ball of 65 cm diameter (fitness ball), this also improves balance.

Posture can worsen existing neck pain. For example, if you look at a computer monitor in the office for most of the day and with poor posture, then more tension occurs than with other people.
The progressive wear of the vertebrae caused by a head posture in ante position (head forward) leads to irritation in:

  • facet joints,
  • Tapes
  • Soft tissue.

This irritation can cause pain in the neck, shoulder blades and back, as well as other problems, such as:

  1. Activation of the trigger points of the muscles – very painful points when touching, along with restriction of the range of motion.
  2. Degeneration problems of the intervertebral disc. It is possible for the disease to develop into a degenerative cervical disc disease, such as osteoarthritis or herniated disc.

Some exercises for rehabilitation for neck pain

The retracted chin

One of the most effective postural exercises for neck pain is “the retracted chin exercises”.
This movement:

  • helps to strengthen the extensor muscles of the back,
  • stretches the stair muscles (scaleni muscles) and deep neck muscles (suboccipital muscles).

Many patients report that when they pull the chin back, they feel a pull along the spine between the shoulder blades.
The exercise can be done many times during the day, even in the car.
Repetition of this exercise helps to develop good posture.
This exercise:

  • bends the first two vertebrae (atlas and axis) forward,
  • stretches the middle and lower part of the cervical spine.

If you are doing this exercise for the first time, it is recommended to take the following position:

1) Stabilize the spine at the back against a door.
2) Place the heels about 3 cm away from the door.

You keep your back locked against the door.
– Bring the head back until the back of the head touches the door.
– You hold your head against the door for 5 seconds.
– Repeat this movement process ten times.
After repeating this exercise ten times with the help of the door, the movement will:

  • while standing
  • while seated


The exercise can be repeated 5 to 7 times a day.
If you perform the exercise in the car, the headrest becomes the target point of the back of the head.
Even pregnant women can perform this simple movement exercise.

Cobra pronation

Cobra pronation is an advanced exercise in which the muscles are strengthened by:

  • shoulder girdle (all muscles that connect the chest to the arm),
  • Neck
  • upper back.

At the beginning you lie down on the floor in a prone position. The prone position uses gravity as resistance in strengthening the muscles.

  • The arms are stretched out to the side of the body, the palms point to the ground.
  • Bring the shoulder blades closer to each other and raise the hands off the floor.
  • Rotate the elbows and palms so that the thumbs point upwards.
  • You carefully raise your forehead by about one centimeter and continue to look straight ahead at the ground.
  • Hold this position for about 10 seconds.
  • Perform 10 repetitions.

Exercise in herniated disc of the cervical spine and overextension

This McKenzie-style exercise is cervical extension (the chin is raised towards the ceiling).

  • You start the exercise with a chin movement backwards (retracted chin).
  • Bend your head back as much as possible.
  • Repeat the exercise 5 times.

The extension of the neck:

  • pushes the intervertebral disc into its anatomical position,
  • stretches the anterior muscles that can cause a straight cervical spine (overextension).

Exercise for headaches and possible nausea

This exercise consists of retraction of the neck, followed by a forward flexion.

  • You start the exercise by taking back the lower jaw (forming a double chin).
  • Then you bend your head forward, moving your chin to the sternum.

Forward flexion of the head is a great relief for patients suffering from neck pain from muscle contractures, as well as cervically caused headaches.
This exercise should be omitted for:

  • Spinal disc herniation
  • Cervicobrachialgia,
  • Ants tingling in the hands.

Helpful exercises for osteoarthritis and cervical blockage

The exercise described in this paragraph is sideways flexion.

  • Bring the ear to shoulder, for example starting on the right side.
    You must not turn your head or circle during this exercise.
  • Then proceed by bringing the left ear to the left shoulder and so on.
  • Repeat this exercise 10 times.

The following part of the program concerns the rotation of the cervical spine.

  • In this exercise, you turn your head to the right (as far as you can) and try to get your chin over your shoulder.
    Do not pull up your shoulders while performing this exercise.
  • Hold this position for 3-5 seconds.
  • Perform this procedure on the left side and repeat the whole thing 10 times.

The Shipwrecked Greeting

Another important posture exercise for the back is the “greeting of the castaway”. This movement exercise is performed standing, with your back leaning against a wall, heels about 4 cm from the wall.

Take the same position as with the “retracted chin”, with the back of your head leaning against the wall.

  • Try to press your back flat against the wall.
  • Spread elbows, forearms, backs of hands and fingers with your wrists at shoulder height on the wall.
  • Keep your upper limbs and head leaning against the wall, then slowly slide your hands over your head.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this exercise 10 times, 3 to 5 times a day.

The nice name of this exercise is reminiscent of the greeting of a castaway who wants to attract the attention of a ship.


Even at home you can let a pulling force act on the neck, lying comfortably on a lounger.

  • To do this, you have to lie in the prone position and let your head hang over the edge of the bed, so that the head is pulled down by gravity.
  • This position allows traction of the neck, similar to a cervical pompoge, but is not the same.
  • Hang your head down for 30-60 seconds.

However, this home exercise is not suitable for people who suffer from dizziness.

Yoga for neck and back

When diagnosing cervical spondylosis (arthrosis of the spine and possibly osteophytes), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs give only temporary relief. A few simple yoga exercises that are repeated regularly can quickly relieve discomfort in the neck.

The following yoga exercises should be performed regularly during the first seven days.
You choose a certain moment of the day to which the first exercise is “bound” so that it becomes a habit.

Stretching of the shoulder blades

You start this exercise sitting with your back straight.

  • You have to interlace the fingers of your hands behind your head.
  • Then the elbows are brought together in front of the head.
  • Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Benefits: This exercise reduces neck and shoulder stiffness and improves cervical spondylosis.

Shoulder circles

You start in an upright position with a loose hand position.
Circle with the shoulders 10 times clockwise and then 10 times in the opposite direction.
Benefits: The muscles involved are toned and relief of:

  • neck pain,
  • Shoulder pain.

This exercise can also be performed with inflamed cervical spine.

Pilates exercises

The swan is an extension exercise.
This movement is:

  • an excellent stretching exercise for the front of the body,
  • a good exercise to strengthen back pain.

An addition of neck rotations in the swan exercise:

  • stretches the neck muscles,
  • improves muscle tone.

When the head and neck are well supported, the range of motion of the joints expands.

How is the exercise performed?

  1. Place on a mat in the prone position. Place the upper arms sideways on the body and bend the elbows to place the palms under the shoulders.
    Do not put your legs together, your feet should rest shoulder width.
  2. The abdominal muscles become tense the moment the navel stands out from the mat. The abdomen remains raised during the exercise.
  3. Inhalation: the spine is stretched by transferring the movement from the arm to the upper body and finally to the lower part.
    • Press with your forearms and hands and stretch your elbows to form a crescent moon with your back.
    • The elbows remain attached to the body.
    • The head remains in line with the spine.
    • The hips remain on the mat.
  4. Circling the head: with the neck in extension, the head can “prop up” on one shoulder – bring the ear to the equilateral shoulder.
    Then slowly bring the chin to the chest after the head has been “recentered”.
    Continue the movement by guiding the ear to the other shoulder (reaching the right shoulder with the right ear).
  5. Turn the head backwards in a circular motion and continue until the left ear is again close to the left shoulder.
  6. Drop the chin back onto your chest, but instead of continuing the circular motion, stop in the middle and stretch your neck. The head is held in the middle in line with the spine.
  7. If the exercise has a positive effect, repeat the rotation, this time starting on the right.
  8. When exhaling, relax “the bow”, that is, slowly drop the back and upper body, place the abdomen, then abdomen, ribs and finally the face on the mat.
  9. Repeat the exercise 3 to 4 times.

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