You might have heard that your head weighs about as much as a bowling ball. In reality, there’s some pretty complicated math involved in determining exactly how much weight your neck is carting around on a daily basis. What we all share in common, however, is that we need stretches for neck tension in our lives. Like, yesterday.
Keren Day, DC, a chiropractor and professional stretcher at Racked stretching studio in New York City, says that we’re all pretty well equipped to deal with the massive ordeal of, um… having a head. The problem arises when we continually turn to unnatural types of movements. “Our bodies were designed to hold our head’s structure. The issues start with all of the unnatural postures that put repetitive stress on our bodies. Activities like looking down on our phones and computers all day increase the stress and pressure on your neck,” says Dr. Day.
Over time, text neck and other bad posture habits put us at risk for chronic neck pain, tension headaches, and even discomfort in the shoulder area. So in this brave new world in which so many of us spend typing away (and jutting our heads so far forward), Dr. Day says you should bookmark a few stretches to move through when your noggin’ feels like weight that is just too much of a burden to bear.
4 stretches for neck tension that use the weight of your head as a counterbalance
1. The chair forward fold
Fairly straight forward, this stretch asks you to sit on the edge of your chair and drape your torso over your lower body while releasing the head neck and shoulder. “Traction can feel amazing on your neck,” says Dr. Day. “Any kind of hang where your head can just wobble around feels great.” Flop over and set your timer for just two minutes and I guarantee your neck will feel amazing.
2. Foam Roller ‘T’
“This is one of our favorite moves of all time, and it uses gravity to help correct and realign your spine,” says Dr. Day. “It also feels amazing after a long day at your desk, using your phone, or just many hours sitting.” To do it:
- Lie vertically on your foam roller. Make sure your head and neck are supported by a pillow or a blanket.
- Let your spine relax against the foam roller as your arms lie beside you at shoulder height straight out just shy of shoulder height. “Gravity will allow your body to correct its posture, open up your chest and shoulders, and release tension in the neck,” says Dr. Day.
- Lie there for one to two minutes to start, then you can go for as long as you like (between five and eight minutes)
3. Side neck stretch
- Sit at the edge of your chair so that your spine aligns itself. Place your feet about shoulder-width apart. Let your shoulders and arms relax by your side or in your lap.
- Keeping your head in line with your shoulders, slowly and gently bring your right ear towards your right shoulder without allowing that shoulder to creep up.
- Hold in that position for about one to two seconds and then gently tilt your head over towards the other shoulder. Hold for one to two seconds and then repeat the movement six times.
4. Head tilts
- Sit at the edge of your chair so your spinal aligns itself. Place your feet about shoulder-width apart once more. Let your shoulders and arms relax by your side or in your lap.
- Keeping your head in line with your shoulders slowly and gently start by tucking your chin. Next, gently look up extending your head and neck hold for one to two seconds and then look down towards your feet hold for one to two seconds. Repeat six times.