Strengthening Exercises for Neck Pain

Physiotherapy treatment for neck pain is a common part of almost any treatment plan ensuring many benefits of physiotherapy at home. A typical Physiotherapy treatment at home for neck pain program will consist of a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises, aerobic conditioning, and possibly trigger point exercises.

Back Burn

One of the important postural physiotherapy treatments for neck pain is the back burn exercise. This exercise is done standing with the back against a large flat wall and the feet about 4 inches out from the bottom of the wall. The action plan is as follows:

  • Try to flatten the lower back against the wall.
  • Place the elbows, forearms and the backs of the hands and fingers on the wall with wrists about shoulder height.
  • Keeping the arms, hands, head and fingers all touching the wall as best possible, slowly slide the hands up above the head and slowly back down.
  • Repeat this 10 times, 3 to 5 times per day.

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Chin Tuck

One of the most effective postural physiotherapy treatments for neck pain is the chin tuck exercise. This exercise helps strengthen the muscles that pull the head back into alignment over the shoulders and also stretches the scalene and sub-occipital muscles.

  • Keeping the spine against the door jamb, pull the upper back and head backwards until the head touches the door jamb. It is important to make sure that the chin is down so that the head is pulled straight back and not looking up.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat this 10 times.

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A person may feel some stretching of the scalene muscles on the side of the neck that go down to the collarbone. These muscles along with the sub-occipital muscles at the top of the neck and the base of the skull are generally the tight muscles. The muscles in the front of the neck and muscles of the upper back are usually the weak muscles that need strengthening.

Prone Cobra

The prone cobra is a rather advanced physiotherapy treatment for neck pain that strengthens the muscles of the shoulder girdle as well as the neck and upper back. This exercise is done lying on the floor face down and uses gravity as resistance in the strengthening process.

  • Lying face down, place the forehead on a rolled up hand towel for comfort.
  • Place the arms at the side, palms down on the floor.
  • Place the tongue on the roof of the mouth (this helps stabilize the muscles in the front of the neck to assist in strengthening).
  • Pinch the shoulder blades together and lift the hands off the floor.
  • Roll the elbows in, palms out and thumbs up.
  • Gently lift the forehead about an inch off the towel keeping the eyes looking straight at the floor (do not tip the head back and look forward) .
  • Hold the position for 10 seconds and perform 10 repetitions.

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Trigger Point Exercises

Foam Roller

A full-length, 6-inch diameter foam roll can be used to work out some of the trigger point pain that often accompanies neck pain.

  • Place the foam roll on the ground.
  • Lie on it lengthwise.
  • Place the hands straight up.
  • Roll slowly sideways keeping the torso parallel to the ground until the foam roller rolls over the scapular muscles where the sore trigger points are located.
  • Slowly roll 20 times to each side.

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