Have you ever suffered from a stiff neck? You know, the area above your shoulders that holds all of your stress, frustration and tension? Yeah, that’s the spot. 

For many people, the neck and shoulders are a chronic area of discomfort and nagging pain. Stretching your neck once or twice a day is one of the easiest prevention techniques to keep your neck tension manageable.

So, if you’re like me and are used to dealing with neck pain or stiffness, try these simple exercises and stretches to help to reduce and control that unwanted tension.

Occipital Release

Occipital Release with the acuBall is an effective way to relieve muscle pain naturally. I can’t and won’t live without it

The acuBall can be used to provide effective relief from neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, and more. Developed by Dr. Cohen, the acuBall stimulates blood flow helping to ‘flush out’ built-up toxins that accumulate in tight muscles causing pain. The acuBall works by utilizing your own bodyweight. 

  1. Lie down, on your back, on a hard surface and/or yoga mat.
  2. Place the acuBall at the bottom (lip) of your skull (Occipital Bone). Heating the acuBall in the microwave beforehand also feels great!
  3. Fully release body weight for 3 minutes or more taking deep, full breathes to relax. 
  4. Nod your head up and down for several rounds.
  5. Next, gently turn the head side to side for several rounds.
  6. Continue to breathe. Tight areas will initially feel tender, then resolve over 1-2 minutes. Areas of chronic discomfort will take time to release.

Practicing Occipital Release with the acuBall is a staple in my daily routine. 

 

Side Neck Stretch

  1. While sitting in a comfortable position, lengthen the spine and relax your chin level with the floor.
  2. Exhale and tip the right ear to the right shoulder; work to feel space between your ear and shoulder.
  3. Continue to draw the left shoulder down from the left ear and flex the left palm, reaching through the heel of the hand toward the floor.
  4. With long, calm deep breaths, feel and visualize space in the tightness of the neck. Being gentle, experiment moving the left arm forward or back to help change the sensation to meet your needs.
  5. To heighten the sensation, take the right hand and gently draw the left side of the head away from the shoulder even more.
  6. Continue to breathe and explore moving the jaw and mindfully moving the chin, up or down, to change the sensation of the stretch from the side of the neck to the front or back of the neck.

The suggested time to hold these stretches is 10 breaths. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side, and repeat both several times a day.

Focused Muscle Groups

  • Scalene Muscles (These muscles are on the sides of the neck)
  • Trapezius (This muscle is located in the upper back, feeding into the base of the skull)
  • Levator Scapulae (This muscle runs from cervical vertebrae 1-4 to the inner scapulae, one on each side)

Back of the Neck and Spine Stretch

  1. Sitting comfortably, interlace the fingers behind the base of the skull.
  2. Keeping the shoulders relaxed, exhale and drop the chin to the chest.
  3. Breathing calmly, resist the head into the clasped hands, working to broaden the upper back and draw the shoulder blades away from the spine.
  4. Continue to resist the head, keeping the chin to the chest; feel the shoulders drop away from the ears.
  5. Experiment rounding the upper back or moving the elbows up or down to shift the sensation from the neck to the mid-upper back.

The suggested time to hold this stretch is 10 breaths.

Focused Muscle Group

  • Trapezius and Rhomboids (The muscles attach at thoracic vertebrae 2-5, run to each inner shoulder blade.)

 

Life is stressful. Taking time each day to stretch and relax will help you keep that 10-pound head of yours upright with a little less tension and pain.

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