5 Moves To Prevent And Alleviate Neck Pain

Loosen the tight muscles in your neck and enjoy being pain-free.


By Cori


If your neck and shoulders feel sore, tight, and achy, these 5 exercises will help you stretch out and loosen everything up. It is important to include all five moves in your workout routine because they loosen up tight muscles while also getting the big muscles of your back activated and working properly.

Neck pain is often caused by our poor, hunched posture while we sit at the computer or text on our phones. To open everything up and reverse this flexed position, we need to improve our extension and get the correct muscles working.

Too often we only stretch and roll, which does loosen up tight muscles, but it does nothing to prevent those same muscles from becoming overworked and tight again. That is why including activation exercises is also important. These moves get the big muscles working correctly so that smaller muscles don’t carry a load they can’t handle.

Include these 5 exercises in your workout routine to prevent and alleviate neck pain.

1. Foam Roller Thoracic Extension

Foam rolling is a great way to start loosening up tight muscles. And when you combine foam rolling of the muscles of your upper back with working on your spinal extension, you do even more to reverse the effects of hunching over a computer or your phone all day!

To do Thoracic Extension using a roller, lie back over the roller with the roller at about your mid-back. Cross your hands over your chest and, with your butt on the ground, extend your back over the roller.

As you extend and relax back over the roller, reach your arms overhead and relax your head and neck. Try to touch the backs of your hands to the ground behind you but do not let your butt come up off the ground. Focus on extending your mid and upper back over the roller instead of simply arching your low back to touch your hands down.

Then sit back up, crossing your hands back over your chest. Repeat the extension and then move the roller high up on your back and repeat again. Perform the extension a few times, especially if the area feels tight and work your way up your back. As you extend over, you can also engage your abs to bring yourself up slightly and then fully relax back over.

2. Standing Chest Stretch

If you have neck pain, tight chest muscles could be contributing to your pain and even to movement compensations that could lead to shoulder and upper back pain and injury as well.

To stretch out your chest, one of the easiest moves to do throughout the day is the Standing Chest Stretch because you can do it using a wall or doorway right in your office.

To do the Standing Chest Stretch, you can use a doorway, wall, or pole. Place one hand on the edge of a doorway behind you with your arm straight back. Keeping your arm straight, turn away from the hand on the door and feel a stretch down your chest, shoulder and bicep.

Do not shrug your shoulder and make sure to relax and breathe as you hold. If you rotate your thumb away from the door and your palm up open toward the ceiling, you will hit your chest from a different angle than if your palm is facing the wall. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds and switch sides.

3. Kneeling Lat and Thoracic Extension Stretch

Since we are so often in flexion, it is important we work to improve our extension. The Kneeling Lat and Thoracic Extension Stretch not only works to improve our extension, but also stretches out tight lats which can contribute to neck and shoulder pain and injury. Tight lats could be contributing to rounded shoulders and your upper traps and rotator cuff muscles taking over when they can’t handle the load, which could be perpetuating your neck pain.

To do the Kneeling Lat and Thoracic Extension Stretch, kneel in front of a bench or box and place your elbows up on the bench about shoulder-width apart. Then drop your chest down toward the ground as you sit your butt back and feel a nice stretch down your triceps and lats.

As you relax over, extend your back and try to get your biceps by your ears; however, make sure that you aren’t simply arching your low back as you extend, but actually extending your upper and mid-back to drop your chest toward the ground.

You can either hold here and breathe, relaxing deeper into the stretch as you hold, or you can perform repetitions, trying to stretch further each time you repeat the stretch.

4. Scapular Wall Hold

The Scapular Wall Hold is another great way to open up your chest; however, unlike the other stretches this move also activates the big muscles of your back. Activation of these muscles is key if you want to maintain the mobility and flexibility you are working on with the stretches. If the big muscles of your back aren’t working correctly, smaller muscles will try to handle a load they can’t carry and this can lead to injury.

To do the Scapular Wall Hold, stand with your back to the wall and your elbows bent to about 90 degrees in at your sides. Lean back and drive your elbows back into the wall as you press your chest out and open toward the ceiling. Draw your shoulder blades down and together as you lean against the wall with only your elbows touching.

Engage your abs and glutes to keep your body in a nice straight line as you lean back. Feel your back working as you press your chest out and open toward the ceiling. Do not shrug your shoulders or tuck your chin as you hold. To make the move harder, walk your feet out further from the wall, but really focus on feeling it between your shoulder blades no matter how far you walk out. With activation exercises, you don’t need a lot of resistance, you just want to focus on the correct muscles working!

5. Lying Scapular Fly

Many of us are familiar with the Superman Exercise and use it to work the backside of our core. By adding in a Scapular Fly to the movement you can also work on your scapular mobility to improve your posture and keep your neck and shoulders healthy and pain free.

To do the Lying Scapular Fly, lie face down on the ground with your legs out straight and arms out to the sides at about shoulder height. Turn your thumbs up toward the ceiling. Engage your glutes and back and lift your chest up as high off the ground as you can, extending your spine.

Keep your neck relaxed and then draw your shoulder blades together as you fly your arms up toward the ceiling.

Engage your back to lift your arms up and do not simply swing your arms up. Then release and lower back down before repeating. You can choose to keep your chest up the entire time as you fly or you can relax all the way back down between reps.

You can use these 5 moves daily to help prevent and alleviate neck aches and pains. And here are even more moves to help prevent neck pain and injury.

* Please consult a doctor when dealing with any pain or injury. These moves are meant to help alleviate minor aches and pains as well as tension of the muscles.

Cori is the owner of Redefining Strength, a functional training facility in Orange County, California focused on helping each client find their strong. She started training and writing a fitness blog in 2011 because she wanted to empower people through diet and exercise so that they can lead healthier, happier lives.