Neck Stretch

written by
Joel Runyon
last updated
October 12, 2021

People always think about stretching their legs, their arms, their hips, their shoulders...but do you ever think about stretching your neck? The big muscle groups get a lot of attention when it comes to developing our stretching and mobility routines, but the smaller muscles need some love too. This is where the neck stretch can come in handy. 

If you have ever experienced tightness or a pain in your neck, chances are you have figured out some way to stretch out those pesky neck muscles. Whether it is tight from a hard workout, a poor night of sleep, or from hunching over your computer screen, neck pain is no fun. 

Massages can usually do the trick, although the budget may not always allow for such a specialized experience. In these instances, we recommend our super simple neck stretch. While it is important to stretch the neck using this method, we also suggest incorporating an all-encompassing routine that targets the shoulders, cervical spine, and back to really ensure that you are getting to the root of the problem. Reference our database for a wide variety of beneficial movements. 

This literally only requires the use of your hands. No special equipment is required. You don’t even have to be standing to perform this stretch, so it is especially easy to do sitting at your work desk or on the couch while watching television. 

If you have ever experienced any neck injuries or head trauma, we do recommend that you consult with your personal healthcare professional before attempting this stretch. You should never experience any pain, numbness, or tingling while holding this stretch. If you do, it is always best to stop the stretch immediately and seek care if necessary. 

If you are ready to learn how to do some basic maintenance on your neck, keep reading. We are going to cover how to properly do this stretch, the benefits of keeping your neck muscles happy and healthy, and ways to modify it if needed. 

What is the Neck Stretch? 

The neck stretch truly could not be easier. We do recommend doing this from a standing position, but if that is not available to you, it can most definitely be performed while seated. 

In a standing position, draw the right hand over the left ear and slowly pull, creating traction through the neck. This should be a gentle movement, so avoid any cranking or rough movements. Pull gently until you hit your end range. Slowly draw the eyes to the sky and hold. The amount of time that you hold this position is totally dependent upon what feels best for you. 

You should feel a nice stretch through your neck and into your trap muscles. While holding, be sure that you breathe deeply to get the most out of this stretch. We recommend inhaling through your nose, filling your belly with air, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. Repeat this cycle as you hold the stretch, using the exhale to “sink” into the stretch 

Once you have held for the desired amount of time, release slowly and bring your head back to the starting position. Switch sides and repeat. Take your left hand over your right ear. Pull your head gently to the right to feel the stretch through your neck. Hold for the same amount of time and release gently. 

Benefits of the Neck Stretch

The benefits of stretching any muscle in your body are well-reported. Not only can it physically feel good in your body, but the practice of stretching helps prevent injuries, can strengthen the muscles, help your muscles perform to the best of their ability, and ensure that your joints can functionally move through their full range of motion. 

But when it comes to the neck, there are a couple of specific benefits. Anyone who has suffered with neck tightness knows just how annoying it can be. It not only is an annoying pain in the neck you have to deal with, but it can also sometimes cause tension headaches or painful breathing. Properly and safely stretching the neck muscles can help ward off these irritating issues. This particular neck stretch can also lengthen the muscles which can help the entire body relax

Needless to say, this can be an effective stretch when used correctly. And it is so incredibly simple to do there really is no excuse not to. 

Neck Stretch Modifications

Again, if you have suffered from neck or spine injuries, we highly suggest that you consult with your own doctor or physical therapist before completing it. If you are cleared from the movement, that’s great news! 

We first suggest moving into this stretch slowly. You do not want to crank or pull too rough on your head. That is the fastest way to strain or injure your neck muscles. Move slowly and with your breath - even if the movement feels too subtle. As you get used to this movement, you can increase the degree to which you pull your head to the side. 

Happy stretching! 

standing neck stretch demo

In a standing position, draw (left or right) hand over the (opposite) ear and slowly pull, creating traction through the neck. Pull until you hit your end range. Slowly draw the eyes to the sky and hold (for however long)

written by
Joel Runyon

Joel is the founder of IMPOSSIBLE and the founder of MoveWell. Joel founded MoveWell after sustaining an injury while running an ultra marathon on every continent. Joel is writes about mobility, pain management and health and wellness overall.

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