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07 January 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Stretching pt 12- Neck

In the introduction post to this series, we reviewed and answered some common questions regarding stretching, including why, when, how, etc. Click here to review it.

In this post we will be talking about stretches specifically for the neck. This includes the upper trapezius, levator scap, and scalene muscles.

The Rules:

1) Stretching should NEVER hurt. The goal is to only go until you feel a pull in the muscle. It should not be to go until it hurts in one of those “no pain, no gain” efforts. It should be comfortable and repeatable, allowing you to move a little further with each repetition.2) Perform stretches when the muscles are warmed up. This can be following a workout or following work with the foam roller. Click here to review the self massage post for the neck (this includes pictures and video using a foam roller and tennis ball to review 3 self muscle release techniques).

2) Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times. You can hold longer than the 20 seconds, but the reps are key. You will always get more out of stretching frequently versus one killer session a week.

3) If hurt, start by stretching around this area. This includes working on the mid-back, back of the shoulder, and front of the shoulder. As the symptoms allow, work your way up to actually stretching out the injured neck area.

4) If you ever experience any dizziness, numbness/tingling (either in the neck, face, or down into your arms), or feel lightheaded while trying to perform these stretches- call your Doctor. That’s not normal. :)

The Progression:

#1 Seated Upper Trap Stretch

This stretch can be performed sitting in a chair or on the floor as long as your back is straight and you’re sitting up with good posture. Place one hand on your hip and the other hand on your side. The stretch will be TO the side of the hand on your head and that hand will be applying the stretch. The key is to let that hand do the work. It’s not you trying to wrench your neck over or touch your ear to your shoulder. With your hand on your head, pull gently until you feel a pull and then hold 20-30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat 4 times to each.

Ways to progress? (see video above)

1) Move hand from hip to behind your back.

2) Hold onto seat.

#2 Levator Scapula Stretch

This stretch can also be done while sitting in a chair on the floor (remember- good posture if on the floor!). Lift one arm up towards the ceiling and bend your elbow so that your hand is on the back of your head. The main part of the stretch is that you are trying to look under that armpit. Use your hand to gently apply a stretch and then lift your other hand so that it’s bent at the elbow/hand on the back of your shoulder. Hold 20-30 seconds and repeat 4 times to each side.

#3 Scalene stretch

Sorry. Forgot a picture for this one! No worries, it’s in the video. This is a two part stretch (also performed while sitting). The first part is that you are going to look up towards the ceiling. From this position you are going to bend your head towards the right (think trying to touch right ear to right shoulder). Lastly, you’re going to rotate your chin up and toward the left. The scalenes run right down along the side of your throat and you should feel a good stretch on the left side when doing this. Back, bend to the left, rotate right will get the right side for you. Same counts. 20-30 second hold, 4 times each side.

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