Stiff Neck Exercises for Neck Pain

Stiff neck exercises for neck pain is a simple routine to do on a daily basis whether you are having symptoms or not. Since 70% of the general population will have cervical spine difficulties in any one year, and for 12 percent it will be disabling, a bit of prevention makes sense.

We recommend you start with one, do it for a few days, and when you're happy, go on to the next.

Stiff neck exercises for the Neanderthal man.

There is no exercise program that fits with everyone. Listen to your body, take it slowly. If it doesn't feel good, leave it out, and move on to the next one. If you're not sure if you are doing it right, get someone to watch you do them.

Obviously first prize is to get a professional check that you are doing them correctly.

1. Neanderthal man

Fix the eyes on a point on the wall directly in front of the eyes, and move the head forwards and backwards (retraction), slowly and rhythmically, careful to keep the chin on the same plane. Avoid flexion / extension - looking up and down.

A slight chin tuck on retraction is important.

Not to be done in public. Do this exercise in the car, and in the loo.

In general it is good practice to stretch tired and sore muscles. However, my experience, with the neck muscles, stretching them often increases the pain.

If there is any concomitant injury to the disc or facets complex, stretching the neck muscles may subluxate the weak joints. 

So I have no neck muscle stretches on this page. There is a place for them, but I would rather you were taught them by your health professional, who must also decide: do you have a purely muscle condition in the neck, or is there is also an underlying joint condition? In which case, in my book, stretches are contraindicated. Others have a different opinion.

2. Neck muscle exercises

Isometric neck muscle exercises.


Torticollis, a condition where the facet joint is locked by a displaced meniscus is one of the most painful and disabling neck conditions. Movement of the head and neck is on awakening suddenly extremely disabling.

You can find more about the chiropractic management of this condition at torticollis physical therapy.

3. Cat and Camel

The Cat and Camel exercises for a stiff neck are more difficult, and probably should not be taught on a website. If you're not getting it, get help. It's an old yoga exercise.

In essence, it's the Neanderthal Man, with the head RETRACTRED against gravity. Once again, don't extend the head. Keep looking straight between your hands.

One of the reasons is that it requires two movement simulaneously:

  1. humping and arching the lumbar spine.
  2. moving the head and neck STRAIGHT UP AND DOWN.

Begin them separately and, when you can do each part confidently, then try combining them.

First, the Cat portion of the exercise.

The Cat stands proud during these stiff neck exercises for neck pain. Head up, neck retracted and back arched.

  • On hands and knees, in a comfortable position, elbows straight.
  • Place your watch between your hands. At all times down at your watch. This helps prevent the temptation or arch your head and neck into extension. Now retract your head and neck, keeping your eyes formly focused on your watch.
  • Now drop the belly and arch the back.

Do not arch the head and neck. 

This is a surprisingly vigorous exercise if you're suffering from neck pain. Take is slowly, not going to the extremes initially.

Stiff Neck Exercises for Neck Pain

The cat and camel yoga exercises is good for the lower back and a stiff neck.

The Camel

The Camel neck muscle exercise, done properly, is just as tricky. She's thirsty, and wanting to drink.

  • Drop your head STRAIGHT DOWN (not chin on chest), keeping your eyes firmly fixed on your watch.
  • Now hump your back.
  • Eventually try doing them together, when you are confident that you can do each of these exercises for a stiff neck separately.
The cat and camel exercise for a stiff neck involves humping the lower back.

And now of course these two stiff neck exercises for neck pain (the Cat and the Camel) should be done simulaneously. First, just the head bobbing up and down, then the back arched and humped, and finally (if you can, some people can never coordinate it) head and back together.

These are rather more difficult stiff neck exercises that you could try! Bottle Boys.

Arm pain

The real seriousness of a stiff neck is the potential for radiating arm pain; that's much worse that even a very painful cervical spine injury. Should you start feel tingling, increased or decreased sensation in the upper limb, weakness or other unknown symptoms it's best to start your stiff neck exercises for neck pain, but also consult your chiropractor.

Rarely a neck injury can also cause symptoms in the legs.

Acute neck

I don't recommend doing these exercises during the acute phase of a neck injury, especially if there is a suspected disc herniation. I had numerous cases early in my career when, just as the pain was settling, I gave the patient these stiff neck exercises, and myself heard the disc again herniate, and the condition regressed.

Unlike the lower back when the right exercises are begun immediately, it's best to wait with neck pain.



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