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Exercise for Neck Pain

This article is for general information and understanding only. Please consult your physician for specific information and about proper exercise and precautions.

  • Regular exercises to restore the strength of your back and a gradual return to everyday activities are important for your full recovery.

  • Exercise 10 to 30 minutes a day 1 to 3 times a day during your early recovery

When you are performing the exercises, stop and contact your doctor or therapist if you notice:

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, blurred vision, fainting, or disorientation

  • Sudden pain shooting down your arm, or numbness or weakness in your arm or hand, or severe neck pain

  • Exercises consistently producing a headache, which persists.

Note: No one with neck pain should perform exercises that require bending over right after getting up in the morning. At that time, the disks are more fluid-filled and more vulnerable to pressure from this movement.

Download Exercise Chart at end of article( Images included with each exercise for reference purpose)

For each neck exercise:

  • Move smoothly and slowly, without sudden jerks. The key is precision and control.

  • Keep your mouth and jaw relaxed. Keep lips together, teeth slightly apart, and let your tongue rest on the roof of your mouth.

  • Gently hold your shoulders back and down so that they are relaxed while doing all exercises (see posture correction exercise, exercise 4)

  • In movement exercises, try to move the same distance to each side. If one side is stiffer, move gently into the stiffness. Move to that direction a little more often.

  • Expect some discomfort, but remember exercises should not cause severe pain.


Lie down with a soft pillow under your neck, and with your knees bent up.

1) The chin nod neck exercises:

  • Gently and slowly nod your head forward as if to say ‘yes’.

  • Feel the muscles at the front of your neck.

  • Stop the nodding action just before you feel the front muscles hardening.

  • Hold the nod position for five seconds and then relax.

  • Gently move your head back to the normal start position.

  • Repeat up to10 times.

2) Head rotation neck exercises:

  • Gently turn your head from one side to the other.

  • Look where you are going.

  • Progressively aim to turn your head far enough so your chin is in line with your shoulder and you can see the wall in line with your shoulder.

  • Repeat 10 times to each side.

3) Shoulder blade exercises:

  • This exercise will relax and ease any tension in the muscles on top of your shoulders. It will help to give you pain relief.

  • Lie on your right side with your arm resting up on two pillows.

  • Roll your left shoulder blade back and across your ribs towards the center of your back.

  • Hold the position for 10 seconds.

  • Repeat 5 times.

  • Repeat lying on the left side for the right shoulder blade.


Exercise while sitting

4) Posture position exercise:

  • Correct your posture regularly by gently straightening up your lower back and pelvis (sit tall).

  • Now gently draw your shoulder blades back and down (women towards their bra clip).

  • Gently tuck your chin in. Hold the position with ease for at least 10 seconds.

  • This position will prevent and ease muscle pain and tension in your neck and shoulder muscles.

  • Repeat the correction regularly, every half hour during the day.

  • You can do this exercise at work, in the car, train or bus and sitting at home.

5) Neck retraction exercises:

  • Sit in the correct postural position as shown in exercise 4 above.

  • Gently draw your head back, sliding your chin back horizontally and keeping your nose pointing straight ahead.

  • You should feel the retraction movement at the base of your neck and your neck should stay long.

  • Repeat this 10 times every hour when sitting.

NECK MOVEMENT EXERCISES: Sit in the correct postural position as described in exercise 4. Repeat all exercises below 10 times to each side.

6) Rotation neck exercises:

  • Gently turn your head from one side to the other.

  • Look where you are going, progressively aim to see the wall in line with your shoulder.

  • This exercise is similar to the one you did lay down.

  • This time you do it sitting.

  • Your neck should stay long.

  • Repeat this 10 times every hour when sitting.

7) Side bending neck exercises:

  • Gently tilt your head towards your shoulder and feel the gentle stretch in the muscles on the side of your neck.

  • Perform the movement to both sides.

8) Bending and extension neck exercises:

  • Gently bend your head towards your chest.

  • Lead the movement with your chin.

  • Moving the chin first, bring your head back to the upright position and gently roll it back to look up towards the ceiling.

  • Leading with your chin, return your head to the upright position.

NECK STRENGTHENING EXERCISES (Exercises 9-11) should only be started later in your recovery. If unsure when to begin this, ask your treating health professional.

9) Neck strengthening exercises (isometric, no movement exercise):

  • Sit in the correct postural position as described in exercise 4.

  • Make sure your chin is relaxed and slightly down.

  • Place your right hand on your right cheek.

  • Gently try to turn your head into your fingers to look over your right shoulder but allow no movement.

  • Hold the contraction for five seconds. Use 10% to 20% effort, no more!

  • Repeat with the left hand on the left cheek.

  • Do five repetitions of the holding exercise to each side.

Neck strengthening exercises with 4-point kneeling:

  • Firstly, adopt the 4-point kneeling position.

  • Begin by ensuring your knees are directly under your hips, and your hands under your shoulders.

  • Your low back should be in a neutral position that is, with a natural arch.

  • Gently draw your belly button to your spine (10% effort).

  • Push gently through your shoulder blades, so that your upper back is level.

  • Draw your shoulders gently away from your ears, or toward your hips.

  • Lift your head up so that it is level with your shoulders, but maintaining a gentle chin tucked or nod position.

  • Once you can hold the safe 4-point kneeling position, then proceed with the neck movement exercises as described below.

10) Neck bending and extension exercises in 4-point kneeling:

  • Adopt the safe 4-point kneeling position.

  • Slowly look up toward the ceiling as far as you can go.

  • Hold for 5-10 seconds.

  • Follow this by slowly bending your neck, leading the movement with a chin tuck or nodding action.

  • Continue the neck bending movement as far as possible, aim for your chin to touch your chest.

  • Throughout this movement, you should hold the neutral lower back and shoulder blade posture described above.

  • Perform 5-10 repetitions.

11) Neck rotation exercises in 4-point kneeling:

  • Adopt the safe 4-point kneeling position.

  • Slowly rotate (turn your neck to one side).

  • It is important to maintain the gentle chin tuck or ‘nod’ position throughout the movement. Also, make sure your head stays level with your body and does not dropdown.

  • If you do this exercise correctly, you should be looking over your shoulder at the end of the movement.

  • It helps to do this exercise side onto a mirror so that you can check your head position.

  • Repeat to the other side. Perform 5-10 repetitions.

Back Stretching Exercises
Download PDF • 678KB

Back Pain Exercises
Download PDF • 1.68MB


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