To prevent pain and stiffness, the neck muscles must be subjected to a daily range of motion exercises. These exercises are intended to maintain the range of motion of the neck or regain the loss of movement in the neck. In case of chronic neck pain, these exercises aid in mobility and allow to tolerate more activity. Following are some of these exercises:
- Neck flexion:
Bring the head forward till the chin touches the chest. Stare straight down at the floor. Lift the head to the initial straight position. Repeat this procedure five times. At the beginning, if the neck is moved backwards and then the procedure is followed, the stretch on the neck increases. The structures behind the cervical spine are kept in a tight position in the daily posture. Gradually, they become shortened and the neck ceases moving naturally. This exercise stretches these structures.
- Neck extension:
Move the head backwards till you are looking directly at the ceiling. The movement should not be fast or forceful. Hold this position for a few seconds, and then return to the initial straight position. Repeat this motion five times. The small joints at the back of the neck are forced to an extreme position in this exercise.
Turn the head slowly round to one side till it cannot go any further. Hold the neck in this position for some seconds, and then return to the initial straight position. Turn your head to one side five times, and then to the other side five times. During the individual movements, do not go from one side to the other. Also, do not roll the neck.
- Side flexions:
Keep the head facing straight forward. Bend the ear down towards the shoulder. The body should not rotate to that side. Return to the initial straight position. Repeat this motion five times. Then, bend the ear to the other side and repeat the motion five times. Do not alternate between the sides after bending once, as this prevents from reaching the ends and aggravates the joints.
- Neck retraction:
A majority of people have a tendency to slump while sitting and position the head upwards so that the eyes are horizontal. While doing this, the neck is arched backwards slightly. Due to this, there is a bending posture to the lower neck and an arching posture to the upper neck. As a consequence, the tissues shorten, and there is stiffness and pain. This position is counteracted in neck retraction exercise. Keep the face straight, draw the head backwards, and move the chin slightly downwards. Hold the backward posture for some seconds and return to the initial position. The entire motion is similar to the forward and backward movement of a chicken.
- Upper neck nodding:
People usually tend to poke the chin forward, which provides an extension to the upper neck joints. During the exercise, lie flat on the back initially. A pillow may or may not be taken below the head. Rotate the head forward to rock the neck. The head should not be lifted from the bottom surface. There may be a feeling of a tight pull in the upper neck. If the head is pushed very hard, the pain could aggravate. After getting accustomed to the movement, it can be done in the sitting or standing position. However, pure joint movement is obtained only in lying down position. This exercise moves the upper cervical joints.