Loosen up that tight, achy neck with this simple physical therapy trick.
Raise your hand if you have a tight, achy neck. Uh-oh, does that hurt?
“A lot of older adults, whom I call ‘seasoned athletes,’ experience tension in their necks because of faulty biomechanics,” says Michael Silverman, P.T., a physical therapist in New York.
Most adults have overactive upper traps, which run from the base of the skull to the shoulders, he explains. By keeping your shoulders constantly hunched forward or simply using these muscles when you should be using others, the traps get pulled tighter and tighter. The result: a literal pain in the neck.
What’s more, due to wear, tear, and gravity, the space in between the vertebrae actually decreases through the decades, Silverman says. This can increase aches and pains by lessening shock absorption in the neck.
Fortunately, the solution may be as simple as stretching. A regular stretching routine can reduce pain and improve mobility in adults with chronic neck pain, according to research in Clinical Rehabilitation.
Silverman suggests starting with the one-minute stretch below. By focusing on the sides of your neck, it helps elongate and ease tension in the traps without promoting the head-forward, hunched-over posture we all know too well.
As always, safety is key. The exercise here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
Your 60-Second Solution to a Tight, Achy Neck
Sit tall in a chair. Reach your right hand over your head, and gently draw your right ear toward your right shoulder. At the same time, relax your left shoulder. You should feel a gentle stretch on the left side of your neck. Breathe slowly and deeply, holding the stretch for 30 seconds.
Repeat on the opposite side, reaching your left hand over your head, and relaxing your right shoulder.
If you can’t reach your hand over your head, simply relax your hands in your lap as you perform the stretch.
You’ll feel some relief immediately, but the best results come with a regular stretching practice. Perform this stretch every day, and even up to two or three times per day if you’re feeling particularly tight.
Plus, check out four more stretches for your neck.
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