Below, I’ve put together a quick and effective stretching sequence to help relieve neck and shoulder tension.
Neck and shoulder tension is a common ailment that I get asked about everyday, so I put these stretches together because they can be done anywhere – standing, sitting, at your desk for a quick re-energizing break, even in your seat during air travel (my muscles get stiff when I fly) – and, will help you feel some immediate relief.
What Causes Neck and Shoulder Tension
There are so many factors that contribute to neck and shoulder tension, but some of the most common triggers are:
- sitting for long periods of time in the same position, without much movement
- faulty posture while sitting – slumped over with rounded shoulders/forward head position
- poor ergonomics at work + constantly staring down at laptop, tablet, or mobile phone screens
- chronic stress causes the growth of stiffness in our shoulders
- tight chest (pectoralis) muscles
- repetitively carrying a loaded bag on the same side of the body (ie: purse, handbag, backpack, messenger tote)
Neck and shoulder tension can arise as 1. an acute ailment (something that happens suddenly), or 2. develop as a chronic case, when tension and muscular imbalances collect from days/weeks/months/years of habits that put strain on the surrounding neck and shoulder muscles. These stretches will help relieve persistent pains and tension. For more specific treatment options, proper manipulation/manual therapy is recommended.
Neck and shoulder stretches shown in the video
- big shoulder rolls – warms up the shoulder and neck muscles, prepping them for a good stretch
- chin tuck – stretches the spinalis muscles in the back of the neck
- lateral neck stretch for the right/left side – stretches the sternocleidomastoid (aka SCM muscles) and scalene muscles
- look over shoulder (to the right/left) – Stretches the upper traps, and deep into the levitator scapulae
- right/left side 45 degrees look down – stretches the upper traps and deep into the levitator scapulae)
- open chest stretch and front of neck stretch – opens the chest and front of the neck
- finger, hand/wrist, forearm stretch – stretches the muscles in the fingers, palm, wrist and forearm
- wrist rolls – offers joint mobility in the wrist