Loosen up that tight, achy neck with this stretch from a top physical therapist.
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., director of rehabilitation and wellness at Northern Westchester Hospital 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. Research published in Clinical Rehabilitation shows that a regular stretching routine can reduce pain and improve mobility in adults with chronic neck pain.
Silverman suggests starting with the quick 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.
Your 60-Second Solution to a Tight, Achy Neck
Sit tall in a chair, reach your right hand over your head, and place it right above your left ear. From here, gently and slowly pull your right ear toward your right shoulder, feeling a stretch in the left side of your neck. Focus on relaxing and dropping your left shoulder as you do so. Breathe slowly and deeply, holding the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
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.