Stress, worry, and anxiety all have a way of showing up in the body in so many ways, but one of the most prominent places that stress gravitates toward is your neck and shoulders. I bet you can feel some of that tension right now.
But, don’t worry! Chronic or acute neck stiffness is common, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep suffering. I am here to help with a super simple method for relief.
Read on to learn the common causes of neck pain and stiffness, along with several simple exercises you can do to both release tension and prevent it.
Here Are 3 Common Causes of Neck Pain and Stiffness:
First, let’s review some of the common causes of neck stiffness and pain.
1. Emotional or Exhaustion
When people feel tired, vulnerable, stressed, or overwhelmed, there is a tendency to round the back and curl the shoulders. A bit like a less dramatic fetal position, humans may be predisposed to react this way to environmental and emotional stressors.
This inevitably creates tightness and tension in the upper body, especially as the neck bends in response to spine curvature.
2. Sedentary Lifestyle
Many people are typing away furiously at computers all day and sitting (or sometimes slouching) at desks. This type of consistent posture decreases mobility, and this long-term seated body position causes tension. Even just long drives or commutes can cause stiffness in your neck!
3. Text Neck
Everybody seems to be texting or browsing with incredible gusto these days – most of the time with their necks angled to face downward at their phones. This is a strained position for your neck to be in, creating tension and stiffness (what I call “text neck”).
This pain can be avoided altogether by being aware of what your neck is doing while you are on your phone or tablet, and by taking some time to stretch your neck each and every day.
Tension throughout the neck can cause problems for the underlying muscles and tissues, often increasing the frequency of headaches, migraines, and irritating aches and pains.
Due to their connectivity and proximity to the cervical spine, chronic stiffness in these areas of the body can also cause long-term difficulties with spinal discs and spinal strength.
These seem like pretty common problems, am I right? Unfortunately, they are, but to combat these types of tension, you want to prevent problematic tissue issues by using yoga and mobility exercises to release and strengthen your neck.
Try These 3 Neck Stretches to Relieve Tension and Stiffness:
These are my tried and true methods to release tension and relieve yourself of neck stiffness.
Seated Neck Stretch
While sitting upright, both feet on the floor and without moving your shoulder, drop your right ear toward your right shoulder. You should feel a nice, subtle stretch through the left side of your neck. Repeat on the left side, holding for as long as it is comfortable, or slowly alternating sides for a few minutes.
Upper Shoulder Stretch
This stretch can be done sitting or standing. Start by taking your left hand across the front of your body toward your right hip or pocket. Next, rotate your head to the right and take your nose down toward the tip of your shoulder. Reach overhead with your right hand and apply gentle downward pressure.
You should feel a stretch in your left upper shoulder region. Hold for 20-30 seconds then release. Repeat on the opposite side. 2-3 times per side is ideal.
Anterior Neck Stretch for Throat Tension
Place your hands on the top on your collar bone and apply medium pressure. Maintaining this pressure, tilt your head back over your right shoulder as if you are lifting the edge of your jawline toward the sky. Hold for 10 seconds and then return to neutral. Repeat on the opposite side. 2-3 times per side is ideal.
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Include These 3 Neck Stiffness Prevention Tips In Your Day-to-Day Routine:
These simple physical therapy-based prevention tips will help keep neck stiffness at bay, reduce neck pain, and also help to increase mobility. If you spend a lot of time on your phone or at a computer, these prevention tips are a must!
1. Maintain Mobility
If you have a desk job or a long commute, be sure to take time throughout the day to get up, stretch and walk around.
Even just short breaks of mobility will give those super tense areas a break. Be sure to get your neck into a neutral position, which will help relieve any stress from awkward neck positions at your desk or in your car.
2. Posture Awareness
Take a few seconds throughout the day to check in on your posture. Are your earlobes touching your shoulders? They shouldn’t be. Are you slouching over your keyboard? Try to correct yourself into a comfortable, upright position.
Have you spent 45 minutes with your neck bent to scroll on your phone? Take a break to release that tension in your neck and stop stiffness and pain from creeping up on you.
3. Relax and Restore
If you’re feeling external stressors, remember that those can literally weigh on you and affect the tension and stiffness you feel in your body.
Take some time each day to relax or really commit to de-stressing practices at home. Simple things like a soothing cup of tea, relaxing music, or some Restorative Yoga can work wonders to help you shake off some of that stress!
Reduce Neck Pain, Prevent Stiffness, and Increase Neck Mobility With These Simple Practices
When it comes to neck pain and stiffness, the BEST course of action is prevention!
Taking just a few minutes of your time each day to implement the tips and stretches included here can save you in times of increased stress, anxiety, and tension.
Movement is the greatest form of medicine and in the physical rehabilitation world, it is considered the first line of defense for combating pain and stiffness.
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