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    Exercises to Relieve a Stiff Neck

    By Cinder Ernst–

    In the past several columns, we have been looking at posture and how to adjust yours so you look better, feel better and have an easier time working out. Today I’m going to give you a couple things you can do to help soothe a stiff neck. I’d like to make a distinction between having a stiff neck and neck pain. At some point the line is crossed from stiff to pain, with the latter best evaluated by a doctor, especially if you have pain that travels down your arm or if you have numbness in your arm or fingers.

    Neck stiffness is pretty common, though, and especially if you take into consideration the positions we use in life, like looking down at our phones all of the time. One of the best ways to soothe a stiff neck is to do Shoulder Rolls. Gently roll your shoulders up, back and around a few times. If Shoulder Rolls make you feel worse, stop, or try rolling one shoulder at a time. Try it now. Do some Shoulder Rolls as well as some Single Should Rolls. Make the roll itself as small and gentle as you need to, so it feels good. You are trying to get a little motion into the area. At Easy Fitness, we love to say, “Motion is lotion.” The “motion is lotion” concept is like the Tin Man and his oil can.

    In our other posture articles, we always begin posture adjustments with Shoulder Rolls. They are the perfect way to warm up the area. If Shoulder Rolls feel okay on your neck then try a few gentle Head Turns. Look to the right, slowly. Then come back to center. Now look to the left. Go slow, pay attention, and stay away from a stretch. Just look right to left and see how far you can go without really feeling any pain or tension. Repeat a few times and notice if your range of motion improves. Alternate careful Shoulder Rolls with Head Turns and see if you can get the “motion is lotion” effect to help soothe the stiffness.

    Another option after your Shoulder Rolls is to do Chin Drops. Drop you chin slowly to your chest without forcing it to go lower than it wants to do so. In other words, stay in a range that does not stretch or cause pain. Bring your head back up to a bit above neutral. I don’t recommend tipping your head back. Repeat the Chin Drop slowly, and see if your range of motion improves.

    If Shoulder Rolls, Head Turns and Chin Drops feel good, try a little Ear to Shoulder. Keeping your eyes straight ahead, let your right ear move towards your right shoulder. All the same parameters apply: stay in a comfortable range of motion, go slow, and pay attention. You can do a few on the right, then try the left, or alternate. Most folks feel different on the left and right sides. It is normal for one side to be looser than the other.

    You can use the above movements to soothe a stiff neck, to avoid a stiff neck, or to warm up for a workout. Use the exercises throughout your day to keep those neck and shoulder muscles supple and comfortable. Have fun and take care of yourself.

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Find out more at