Why you should be cautious of neck stretches.

Ever had a blinder of a headache after a seemingly relieving traps stretch. I approach neck stretches cautiously. Many of the neck muscles are small and we are not always sensitive to the force we can generate through them, particularly if tension is more the problem, not tightness.

Do you carry the world on your shoulders? It's heavy!

Why you should be cautious of neck stretches.

Tightness across the neck and shoulders is often due to poor posture and lifestyle habits, for instance long periods of a working day slumped in front of a computer. These postures and the accompanying musculoskeletal (MS) changes are developed in the body over many years. They are also complicated by habits of holding tension when we busily carry the world on our shoulders.


As a physiotherapist and yoga therapist I notice a number of factors that may need to be addressed to relieve neck pain. So try some of the simple practices or come to a asana or meditation class soon.


  • A kyphotic posture is an increase in the slump in the mid back. Although this may be due to the persons structure, often it is developed by poor posture over a long period of time. It may be mobile, ie. the person has flexbility to move in the opposite direction (extension) or it may not move too much. This posture particularly without mobility can put additional pressure on the neck (and also the low back). When prescribing asana to address this you need to check that the asana are gently creating more extension. Cat- cow and raising the arms with the inhale can create more opening, but you need to check that the person is not swaying into the low back. Relaxing over a rolled towel or brick can also help, but make sure the head has enough support, particularly with aging spines. Sometimes just lying flat on the floor with a pillow and airplane arms is enough.

  • Lack of spinal rotation. We do not turn so much in daily life – our chairs have back rests that prevent it and they spin so we don't have to. Maybe when we were throwing spears and running hunting wilderbeast we moved our thoracic spine more, but well – we don't move enough. This is the most common tight area I think now... so get it moving. Ly on your back with arms wide, bend your knees and drop them side to side (not if you've had a hip replacement though!) - turn to your maximum without lifting your shoulders.

  • Whether neck muscles are tight or tense my favourite way of mobilising the neck is in the aforementioned position for rotating thoracic spine, with the addition of turning the neck in the opposite direcion. Many of you will be aware that this is my number 1 posture because it benefits so many areas and feels so good.

  • Neck tension can be secondary to the above musculoskeletal profile or in response to our busy and stressful lives and probably a combo of both. Addressing the MS factors with gentle movement with breath will also help with stress and tension. Sometimes though we need to make lifestyle changes – prioritise time out and learn meditation which directly addresses the tension.

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