Neck pain can be bothersome. In some situations, it can be downright painful.
Whether it’s because you’ve slept in a wrong position, been sitting at your desk for too long or stressed out, your neck can experience kinks and knots.
When this happens, it usually messes up your day.
Even worse, neck pain doesn’t always go away the next day. So, you’re stuck with at least for a while.
Here are some simple stretches you can use to avoid that. They’ll help you soothe and relieve neck and shoulder pain as it strikes.
Better yet, doing some of them regularly will help prevent neck and shoulder stiffness from ever creeping up on you again.
Best Stretches for Neck Pain: How to Stretch Your Trapezius
1. Upper Trapezius Stretch
This is something that you’ve probably done before. For most people, it’s a natural instinct to try and stretch your neck especially when you’re tired or have a headache.
The key to this stretch is the positioning of your off arm as well as gently pulling your head towards the opposite direction. The off arm position helps expose the upper trap region, so you get a deeper stretch.
How to Do the Upper Trapezius Stretch
- Sit on a chair or bench
- Bring your left arm behind your butt. Twist your hand inwards so that your pinky is the closest finger to your butt. And, your fingers are all pointing to the right.
- With your right hand, gently pull your head down towards the opposite direction. You should feel the stretch in your upper trapezius and neck muscles.
- Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds.
2. Middle Trapezius Stretch
The middle trapezius is a bit trickier to get to. It isn’t as exposed as the upper trap. This means you’ll need to somehow isolate the middle section of your back to stretch it. This seated movement uses a combination of your body and arms to do this.
How to Do the Middle Trapezius Stretch
- Sit down on a chair. For this movement, a chair without arms works better since you’ll need some space on your sides.
- Grab your knees with your hands.
- Using your arms as leverage, round your back into a forward posture and try to push the middle of your back backward.
- Hold the pose for 10 to 15 seconds.
3. Mid & Lower Trap Stretch
This movement stretches you middle and lower traps to the sides. It’s an excellent complement to the one above. Together they allow your middle back to move in a wide range of angles.
You can do this stretch standing or seated. Both ways work very well.
How to Do the Mid & Lower Trap Stretch
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Lift both arms straight up overhead.
- Grab your left wrist with your right hand.
- Lean towards the right using your right arm to help pull you in that direction.
- Hold the pose for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Switch hands and then lean towards the left for the same amount of time.
4. Crocodile Pose
This yoga pose targets the upper and middle trapezius muscles. It does the opposite of the seated middle trap stretch above. This time your traps get stretched by elongating your spine.
The Crocodile pose works very well for upper back pain relief. It helps by mobilizing your thoracic spine and giving it a good stretch.
It is also an excellent way to negate some of the forward head posture and hunchback that can develop from sitting behind a desk all day.
How to Do the Crocodile Pose
- Lie on your stomach.
- Lift your upper back by bringing your arms under your head. You can rest your elbows underneath your shoulders. Or, fold them in front of you.
- Extend your neck upward and look straight ahead. This will intensify the stretch in the upper back.
- Hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
5. Cobra Pose
The cobra pose is similar to the crocodile pose. But, instead of targeting the upper back, you go down a bit more. This makes it focus on your mid to lower trapezius muscles.
Together with the crocodile pose, this helps with back pain relief. More specifically, targeting the lower part of your back.
How to Do the Cobra Pose
- Lie flat on your stomach. Keep your legs straight. And, let the top of your feet rest on the floor.
- Bring your hands under your shoulders.
- Push your upper torso up using your hands. Only go as far as you feel comfortable. Don’t overstretch your back. Over time it will get more flexible.
- Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.
6. Cat-Cow Pose
The cat cow pose is a relaxing posture that allows your spine to stretch. Like most yoga poses it requires a slow and gentle movement. This helps relieve the tension in your back and neck areas.
A lot of yoga practices use this movement to warm up for their sessions.
How to Do the Cat-Cow Pose
- Get on all fours. Position your knees hip-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart.
- With a neutral spine, round your back upwards. Imagine trying to bring your spine up to the ceiling.
- From the top position, slowly arch your back as it trying to push your back down to the ground. Lift your head towards the ceiling.
- Continue the slow, gentle movement of rounding and arching your back 10 times.