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Neck stretches and exercises are both important in neck pain reduction.
This is a general guideline for back pain that you can discuss with your health care team. Especially if you have had back or neck surgery, you must follow your personal physician’s guidelines. Always consult your own personal health professional before beginning any new exercise program. Although I am a physical therapist, I am not your physical therapist. This information is for educational purposes. Always consult your personal physician or health care professional for individual advice. See medical disclaimer.
In general neck care, alignment and controlled movement are both important. Neck stretches allow for the ability to be in good alignment (if you are too tight you cannot line up correctly). Exercises will help your muscles to be able to stay in the correct alignment (strength and endurance). Performed correctly, stretching and exercise for your neck can help minimize and reduce stiffness and pain.
STRETCHING– Performing stretches with shoulders relaxed. Stretches should be slow (5-15 seconds) and gentle (no forced motion or bouncing). Stretching should not cause significantly increased pain or pain radiating down your arm. I recommend 3-5 repetitions of each. Try deep breathing throughout to help relax muscles.
Tight muscles may put stress on joints contributing to pain, and stretching programs have been found to relieve pain. However, stretching muscles along with strengthening the muscles in your core, may be even more effective for decreasing stress and pain.
STABILIZING– I also recommend training core neck muscles. Perform the exercises slowly, focusing on good alignment and control. I usually begin with 3-5 repetitions and encourage working up to 10 of each, several times per week.
STRENGTHENING– Incorporate good posture and shoulder relaxation with exercise and daily activities. Practise good body mechanics and maintain tight abdominals while performing ADL’s (Activities of daily living). These principles and habits will decrease the stress on your neck and upper back, and should lead to decreased pain over time. One key in adjusting your set up with activities, is to limit reaching up overhead or looking up to perform activities.
CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE– Cardiovascular exercise improves blood flow to increase healing of tissues. As well, it decreases pain by releasing pain reducing chemicals in your brain when you exercise! It may be more challenging to incorporate this if you are limited to your home, but you could try walking laps through the house, or up and down the driveway, or using a pedaler with your legs and then your arms, with good posture of course!
General back care recommends good footwear, proper assistive device (cane or walker), and good posture with all activities.
Don’t be discouraged if you are not able to exercise at intense levels! Even physical activity that is low to moderate intensity, performed around 2-3 times per week, may still improve someone’s chronic pain symptoms (Ambrose, Golightly, 2016).
You can add additional exercises or draw in stick figures if needed.
Here is a link to my Premium Resources, where all of my printable handouts are available (created to print well in B/W). There is also a handout of “Tips for Back Care” that you could use for patient education. It is difficult for people to remember everything we teach them!
You can also find a packet of back care printables at Creative Home Therapy at ETSY,
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