A sore or stiff neck and headaches can arise upon waking up first thing in the morning, or it can develop during a long work day, especially if you have a desk based job. This is often due to the results of the muscles and joints around the upper neck becoming too tight, putting pressure on the nerves at the top of your spine. This pain shoots up to the eyes and forehead. Instead of reaching for your pain medications, try to do some gentle stretching exercises instead.
Stretching helps keep your flexibility, which is important to preventing discomfort from stiff necks, general neck pains, and headaches. Below are some easy stretches that you can do throughout the day to help prevent neck pain and headaches from occurring.
- Chin tuck (Flexion of the neck) – gently bend your head forward so that your chin is toward your chest. Hold this pose for 15-30 seconds and then slowing bring your head back to neutral. Repeat several times.
- Chin to the sky (Extension of the neck) – gently bend you head backwards to look up at the ceiling or sky. Stop once you start to feel the stretch in the front of your neck and hold for 15-30 seconds. Then slowly bring head back to neutral and repeat several times.
- Looking over the shoulders (Rotation of the neck) – gently rotate your head to the left to look over your left shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds before returning to neutral (looking straight ahead) and repeat several times. Do the same looking right over your right shoulder.
- Shoulder to ear (Lateral flexion of the neck) – gently tilt your head to the side, as if you are trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. Once you feel a light stretch, hold for about 30 seconds before returning neck to neutral. Repeat several times before switching to opposite side. (Left and right sides).
- Shoulder and arm rolls – slowly roll your shoulders in a circular motion forward 5-10 times then backwards the same number of times. Then do several large arm circles forward, followed by several small arm circles forward. Repeat in the backwards circular motion.
Some articles that I found in my online searches that list these stretches, as well as some other stretches to try that you might want to check out are the following:
Neck Exercises for Neck Pain
Stretches for Headaches
5 Simple Stretches to Relieve Headaches
Simple Stretches to Relieve and Prevent Tension Headaches
Cheers to a New (and pain free) Year!