Thanks to the long days most of us spend at the computer and in the car, upper back and neck pain are among the most common daily pain complaints. Here are some simple stretches recommended by physical therapists that can help you prevent and manage a sore neck, shoulders, or upper back.
1. Chin Drops
Sit upright, with your head in the neutral position. Keeping your shoulders level and relaxed, drop your chin down approximately 1 inch. As you get more practiced at this, drop your chin lower to meet your chest.
Hold 5 seconds, relax, repeat 5 times.
2. Shoulder Rolls
You can do shoulder rolls while sitting or standing. Starting with the shoulders dropped and relaxed, roll them backward in circles using forward-up-back-down motion. Try not to arch your back.
3. Shoulder Blade Pinch
Like shoulder rolls, you can do these sitting or standing. With your arms up and out to the sides in a V, pinch your shoulder blades together and downwards. Take care not to lift your shoulders or arch your back.
4. Ear to Shoulder Tilts
Start with your head in the neutral position, facing forwards. With shoulders relaxed, tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder letting the weight of your head stretch your muscles. For this stretch to work properly, keep your shoulder down as you lean away from it, letting all movement be from the neck. Do the same thing on the other side, bending the left ear to the left shoulder. For added stretch, use your hand to gently and steadily pull your head toward your shoulder.
Variation: Diagonal Tilts
Turn your head slightly toward the direction you will be stretching, and tilt your head diagonally toward your chest and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. For added stretch, use your hand to gently and steadily pull your head forward on the diagonal.
Hold each side for 15 seconds, rest. Repeat 2 to 4 times toward each shoulder.
5. Overhead Stretch
Reach up over your head with both arms, linking hands and straightening toward the ceiling. Vary the stretch slightly by turning your hands so palms face upwards.
Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, repeat 3 times.
6. Pectoralis Stretch
Stand in an open doorway with your forearms on either side of the door frame, with your elbows bent at 90-degree angles. With your back straight, step forward with one leg until you feel a gentle stretch across the chest and in front of the shoulders.
Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 5 times.
7. Dorsal Glide
Sit or stand tall, looking straight ahead. Holding shoulders down and steady, slowly tuck your chin as you glide your head backward over your body. You should feel a gentle stretch in the back of the neck.
Hold for a count of 6, and then relax for up to 10 seconds. Repeat 8 to 12 times.Variation: Some people find this exercise easier to do while lying on their backs with an ice pack on the neck.