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What to Do When Your Neck and Shoulders Hurt

Try these three easy exercises to build up your strength.

You probably don’t think about your neck all that often, but it’s such a key part of your body. It’s super flexible and supports your head, which weighs 10 to 12 pounds on its own. When you tilt your head down, as you do when you’re standing over the stove cooking or hunched over your gardening beds, it puts more even weight on your neck. Even staring down at your phone can add extra weight! If you’ve somehow managed to avoid becoming the next victim to text neck, you still may experience pain from stress and muscle tension. To help with minor aches and pains, you can use an OTC pain reliever like Advil as directed, and start sneaking these three short exercises into your daily routine to help when your neck and shoulders hurt. (If you’ve ever hurt your back or have other health conditions, such as osteoporosis, consult your doctor before doing these exercises.)

Head Rolls

What it helps: Your neck and upper back

  1. Start either standing or sitting, keeping your shoulders relaxed, then gently lower your chin toward your chest.
  2. Roll your head to the right, so your ear is just over your right shoulder. Hold for a count of three, then gently roll your head back to the center.
  3. Roll your head to the left, holding for a count of three.
  4. Slowly roll your head back and in a clockwise circle. Repeat three times.
  5. Reverse, moving your head in a counterclockwise circle three times.

Neck Flexion and Extension

What it helps: Your neck

  1. Stand or sit comfortably, keeping your arms at your sides. Contract your abs and shift your shoulders down and back.
  2. Keep your spine aligned as you drop your chin to your neck. Breathe deeply and evenly, and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Then return to starting position.
  3. Slowly extend your neck up and back, moving the crown of your head toward your back. Breathe deeply and hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
  4. Return to starting position and repeat up to five times.

The Pendulum

What it helps: The shoulder and the shoulder joints

  1. Stand next to a table or desk on your right side. Lean forward, keeping your back straight and knees soft, and place your right hand on the surface for support. Let your left arm dangle at your side.
  2. Gently swing your arm forward and backward, then right to left, then in a circle. 
  3. Turn and switch sides so the table or desk is on your left side, and repeat the exercise with your right arm.

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