The best exercises for neck pain are techniques that address the underlying cause of the discomfort being experienced. The neck is structured by the cervical vertebrae, and pain can come from conditions like arthritis or other forms of degeneration, muscle or ligament injury, and nerve impingement. Stretching and range of motion (ROM) exercises are recommended most often by physicians and chiropractors for neck pain. Some strength exercises are also recommended for certain conditions, especially those caused by incorrect posture, that work to strengthen musculature in the neck.
Many people experiencing neck pain from incorrect posture, like those who work for long hours at a computer station, can practice cervical stretching exercises for neck pain. In this situation, it is recommended that a person take the time to stand up and perform a stretch at regular intervals. A general stretch that many doctors recommend has the patient stand upright, put his right hand behind his back, and reach as far as possible toward the left buttock. He then repeats the stretch on the other side toward the right buttock. This stretch relieves tension that accumulates in the neck from its articulation with the shoulder, which is routinely stressed by typing on a keyboard or driving long distances, for example.
ROM exercises for neck pain are recommended for the general population as a way to prevent muscle injury and to rehabilitate the cervical area after an injury. The person should feel the neck stretching, but if the pain becomes severe, he should stop and consult a physician. A common ROM exercise is cervical rotation, which has the patient look to his right slowly, holding the position just past comfort, and then repeat the exercise on the left side. Another ROM exercise, neck bending, has the patient tilt the head forward until his chin is to his chest; after holding the position, he raises his head up to look at the ceiling, holding again. These exercises for neck pain keep the musculature loose and can help the patient work through a nerve impingement as well.
A simple crunch is sometimes prescribed for patients needing to strengthen the cervical area. The patient lies down, bends his knees while keeping his feet flat on the floor, and crosses his arms on his chest. He then raises his chin towards the ceiling, engaging the cervical and abdominal muscles as he does so. Many muscles and ligaments that attach to points on the neck are worked during this exercise, helping alleviate painful strain on the neck and also preventing subsequent injuries from developing.