Exercises: Neck & Back

 

Back Exercises: Abdominal Lift

The Abdominal Lift strengthens your lower abdominal muscles, helping you keep your pelvis and back stable.

  • Lie on the floor with both knees bent. Put your feet flat on the floor and your arms by your sides. Tighten your abdominal muscles.

  • Lift one bent knee and move it toward your upper body. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and your back flat on the floor. Hold for 10 seconds.

  • Repeat 3 times. Then, switch legs.

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Back Exercises: Arm Reach

Do this exercise on your hands and knees. Keep your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your spine in a neutral position (not arched or sagging). Be sure to maintain your neck's natural curve.

  • Stretch one arm straight out in front of you. Don't raise your head or let your supporting shoulder sag.

  • Hold for 5 seconds.

  • Return to starting position.

  • Repeat 5 times.

  • Switch arms.

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Back Exercises: Back Release

Do this exercise on your hands and knees. Keep your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your spine in a neutral position (not arched or sagging). Be sure to maintain your neck's natural curve.

  • Relax your abdominal and buttocks muscles, lift your head, and let your back sag. Be sure to keep your weight evenly distributed. Don't sit back on your hips. 

  • Hold for 5 seconds.

  • Return to starting position.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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Back Exercises: Hip Lift

To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Don't press your neck or lower back to the floor. Breathe deeply. You should feel comfortable and relaxed in this position.

  • Slowly raise your hips upward.

  • Tighten your abdomen and buttocks. Be careful not to arch your back.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Lower your hips to the floor.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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Back Exercises: Hip Rotator Stretch

To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Don't press your neck or lower back to the floor. Breathe deeply. You should feel comfortable and relaxed in this position.

  • Rest your right ankle on your left knee.

  • Place a towel behind your left thigh and use it to pull the knee toward your chest. Feel the stretch in your buttocks.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Release.

  • Repeat 2 times.

  • Switch legs.

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Back Exercises: Knee Lift

To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Don't press your neck or lower back to the floor. Breathe deeply. You should feel comfortable and relaxed in this position.

  • Lift one bent knee and move it toward your upper body. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and your back flat on the floor.

  • Hold for 10 seconds. Return to start position.

  • Repeat 3 times.

  • Switch legs.

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Back Exercises: Leg Pull

To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Don't press your neck or lower back to the floor. Breathe deeply. You should feel comfortable and relaxed in this position.

  • Pull one knee to your chest.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Return to starting position.

  • Repeat 2 times.

  • Switch legs.

  • For a double leg pull, pull both legs to your chest at the same time. Repeat 2 times.

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Back Exercises: Leg Reach

Do this exercise on your hands and knees. Keep your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your spine in a neutral position (not arched or sagging). Be sure to maintain your neck's natural curve.

  • Extend one leg straight back. Don't arch your back or let your head or body sag.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Return to starting position.

  • Repeat 5 times.

  • Switch legs.

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Back Exercises: Lower Back Stretch

To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Shift your weight slightly forward to avoid rounding your back. Relax, and keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned.

  • Sit with your feet well apart.

  • Bend forward and touch the floor with the backs of your hands. Relax and let your body drop.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Return to starting position.

  • Repeat 2 times.

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Back Exercises: Partial Curl-Ups

To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Don't press your neck or lower back to the floor. Breathe deeply. You should feel comfortable and relaxed in this position.

  • Cross your arms loosely.

  • Tighten your abdomen and curl halfway up, keeping your head in line with your shoulders.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Uncurl to lie down.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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Leg Muscle Stretches: Hamstring Stretch (with Towel)

To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Don't press your neck or lower back to the floor. Breathe deeply. You should feel comfortable and relaxed in this position.

  • Put a towel behind one knee or calf.

  • Use the towel to pull the leg toward your chest, keeping the leg straight or slightly bent.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Then lower the leg.

  • Repeat 2 times.

  • Switch legs.

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Neck & Upper Back Exercises: Reach & Hold

Do this exercise on your hands and knees. Keep your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your spine in a neutral position (not arched or sagging). Keep your ears in line with your shoulders. Hold for a few seconds before starting the exercise.

  1. Tighten your abdominal muscles and raise one arm straight in front of you, palm down. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower. Repeat 5 times.

  2. Do the exercise again, this time lifting your arm to the side. Repeat 5 times.

  3. Do the exercise again, this time lifting your arm backward, palm up. Repeat 5 times.

Switch sides and do each exercise with the other arm.

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Neck & Upper Back Exercises: Shoulder & Upper Back Stretch

To start, stand tall with your ears, shoulders, and hips in line. Your feet should be slightly apart, positioned just under your hips. Focus your eyes directly in front of you. Stand in this position for a few seconds before starting your exercise. This helps increase your awareness of proper posture.

  • Reach overhead and slightly back with both arms. Keep your shoulders and neck aligned and your elbows behind your shoulders.

  • With your palms facing the ceiling, turn your fingers inward.

  • Take a deep breath. Breathe out and lower your elbows toward your buttocks. Hold for 5 seconds, then return to starting position.

  • Repeat 3 times.

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Neck & Upper Back Exercises: Shoulder Girdle Stretch

To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Your weight should be slightly forward so that you're balanced evenly on your buttocks. Relax your shoulders and keep your head level. Using a chair with arms may help you keep your balance.

  • Place one hand on the outside elbow of the other arm.

  • Pull the arm across your body. Hold for 20 seconds. 

  • Switch sides.

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Neck & Upper Back Exercises: Shoulder Shrug

To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Shift your weight slightly forward to avoid rounding your back. Relax. Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned.

  • Raise both of your shoulders as high as you can, as if you were trying to touch them to your ears. Keep your head and neck still and relaxed.

  • Hold for a count of 5. Release.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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Neck & Upper Back Exercises: Shoulder Squeeze

To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Shift your weight slightly forward to avoid rounding your back. Relax. Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned.

  • Raise your arms to shoulder height, elbows bent and palms forward.

  • Move your arms back, squeezing your shoulder blades together.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Return to starting position.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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Neck Exercises: Active Neck Rotation

To start, lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned, but don't press your lower back to the floor. Rest your hands on your pelvis. Breathe deeply and relax.

  • Use your neck muscles to turn your head to one side until you feel a stretch in the muscles.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Then turn to the other side.

  • Repeat 5 times on each side.

Note: Keep your shoulders on the floor. Don't lift your chin as you turn your head.

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Neck Exercises: Arm Lift

To start, lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned, but don't press your lower back to the floor. Rest your hands on your pelvis. Breathe deeply and relax.

  • Raise one arm overhead, then lower it. As you lower that arm, raise the other arm.

  • Continue to move both arms in slow, smooth arcs. Keep your arms straight and your head and neck relaxed.

  • Repeat 5 times with each arm.

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Neck Exercises: Head Clock

To start, lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned, but don't press your lower back to the floor. Rest your hands on your pelvis. Breathe deeply and relax.

  • Imagine facing a clock. With your nose, slowly trace the outer edge of the clock.

  • Move clockwise first, then counterclockwise.

  • Repeat 3 times.

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Neck Exercises: Neck Isometrics

To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Your weight should be slightly forward so that you're balanced evenly on your buttocks. Relax your shoulders and keep your head level. Using a chair with arms may help you keep your balance.

  1. Press your palm against your forehead. Resist with your neck muscles. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax. Repeat 5 times.

  2. Do the exercise again, pressing on the side of your head. Repeat 5 times. Switch sides.

  3. Do the exercise again, pressing on the back of your head. Repeat 5 times.

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Neck Exercises: Passive Neck Rotation

To start, lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned, but don't press your lower back to the floor. Rest your hands on your pelvis. Breathe deeply and relax.

  • With your neck relaxed, place the palm of one hand on your forehead. Use your hand to turn your head to one side until you feel a stretch in the neck muscles.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Then turn to the other side.

  • Repeat 5 times on each side.

Note: Keep your shoulders on the floor. Don't lift your chin as you turn your head.

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Back Exercises: Bridge

The Bridge exercise strengthens your abdominal, buttocks, and hamstring muscles. This helps keep your back stable and aligned when you walk.

  • Lie on the floor with your back and palms flat. Bend your knees. Keep your feet flat on the floor.

  • Contract your abdominal and buttocks muscles. Slowly lift your buttocks off the floor until there is a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

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Back Exercises: Back Press

Do this exercise on your hands and knees. Keep your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your spine in a neutral position (not arched or sagging). Be sure to maintain your neck's natural curve.

  • Tighten your abdominal and buttocks muscles to press your back upward. Let your head drop slightly.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Return to starting position.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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Back Exercises: Elbow Press

To start, lie face down on your stomach, feet slightly apart, forehead on the floor. Breathe deeply. You should feel comfortable and relaxed in this position.

  • Press up on your forearms. Keep your abdomen and hips on the floor.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Lower slowly.

  • Repeat 2 times.

  • Return to starting position.

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Back Exercises: Lower Back Rotation

To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Don't press your neck or lower back to the floor. Breathe deeply. You should feel comfortable and relaxed in this position.

  • Drop both knees to one side. Turn your head to the other side. Keep your shoulders flat on the floor.

  • Hold for 20 seconds.

  • Slowly switch sides.

  • Repeat 2 times.

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Back Exercises: Pelvic Tilt

To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Don't press your neck or lower back to the floor. Breathe deeply. You should feel comfortable and relaxed in this position.

  • Tighten your abdomen and buttocks, and press your lower back toward the floor. This should be a small, subtle movement.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Release.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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Back Exercises: Seated Rotation

To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Shift your weight slightly forward to avoid rounding your back. Relax, and keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned.

  • Fold your arms, elbows just below shoulder height.

  • Turn from the waist with hips forward. Turn your head last.

  • Hold for a count of 5. Return to starting position.

  • Repeat 5 times on one side. Then switch sides.

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Back Exercises: Side Stretch

To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Shift your weight slightly forward to avoid rounding your back. Relax. Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned.

  • Stretch your right arm overhead.

  • Slowly bend to the left. Don't twist your torso.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Return to starting position.

  • Repeat 2 times. Then, switch to the other side.

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Neck Exercises: Head Lifts

Do this exercise on your hands and knees. Keep your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your spine in a neutral position (not arched or sagging). Keep your ears in line with your shoulders. Hold for a few seconds before starting the exercise.

  • Keeping your back straight, slowly drop your chin toward your chest. Tuck in your chin.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Then lift your head until your neck is level with your back.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.

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Neck & Upper Back Exercises: Shoulder Isometrics

To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Your weight should be slightly forward so that you're balanced evenly on your buttocks. Relax your shoulders and keep your head level. Avoid arching your back or rounding your shoulders. Using a chair with arms may help you keep your balance.

  • Raise your arms, elbows bent, to shoulder height.

  • Slowly move your forearms together. Hold for 5 seconds.

  • Return to starting position. Repeat 5 times.

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Neck Exercises: Neck Flex

To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Your weight should be slightly forward so that you're balanced evenly on your buttocks. Relax your shoulders and keep your head level. Avoid arching your back or rounding your shoulders. Using a chair with arms may help you keep your balance.

  • Rest the back of your left hand against your lower back. Place your right palm on the top of your head.

  • Gently pull your head forward and down until you feel a stretch in the neck muscles. Don't force the motion.

  • Hold for 20 seconds, then return to starting position. Switch arms.

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Neck Exercises: Neck Glide

To start, lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned. Don't press your lower back to the floor. Rest your hands on your pelvis. Breathe deeply and relax.

  • Gently flatten the curve of your neck against the floor.

  • Lengthen your neck as though you're growing taller. Don't jam your chin into your chest, and don't push too hard.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Release. Repeat 3 times.

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Neck Exercises: Neck/Torso Rotation

To start, lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned, but don't press your lower back to the floor. Rest your hands on your pelvis. Breathe deeply and relax.

  • From starting position, drop both knees to one side. At the same time, turn your head and look in the other direction.

  • Keep both feet in contact with the floor and keep your arms at your sides.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. Then slowly switch sides.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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Neck & Upper Back Exercises: Shoulder Clock

To start, stand tall with your ears, shoulders, and hips in line. Your feet should be slightly apart, positioned just under your hips. Focus your eyes directly in front of you. Stand in this position for a few seconds before starting your exercise. This helps increase your awareness of proper posture.

  • Imagine that your right shoulder is the center of a clock. With your shoulder, slowly trace the outer edge of the clock.

  • Move clockwise first, then counterclockwise.

  • Repeat 3 times. Switch shoulders.

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Protecting Your Neck: Posture & Body Mechanics

Protecting your neck from injuries and pain involves practicing good posture and body mechanics. This may mean correcting bad habits you have related to the way you hold and move your body. The tips below can help you improve your posture and body mechanics.

What Is Posture and Why Does It Matter?

Posture is the way you hold your body. For many of us, this means hunching over, thrusting the chin forward, and slouching the shoulders. But this kind of poor posture keeps muscles from properly supporting the neck and puts pressure on disks, ligaments, and joints in your neck. As a result, injury and pain can occur.

How Is Your Posture?

Use a full-length mirror to check your posture. To begin, stand normally. Then slowly back up against a wall. Is there space between your head and the wall? Do you slouch your shoulders? Is your chin pointing up or down? All these can cause neck pain and injury.

Improving Your Posture

Follow these steps to improve your posture:

  • Breathe deeply.

  • Pull your shoulders back.

  • Think of the ears, shoulders, and hips as a series of dots. Now, adjust your body to connect the dots in a straight line.

  • Keep your chin level.

What Are Body Mechanics and Why Do They Matter?

The way you move and position your body during daily activities is called body mechanics. Good body mechanics help protect the neck. This means learning the right ways to stand, sit, and even sleep. So do what's best for your neck and practice good body mechanics.

Standing

To protect your neck while standing:

  • Carry objects close to your body.

  • Keep your ears and shoulders in a line while standing or walking.

  • To lower yourself, bend at the knees with a straight back. Do this instead of looking down and reaching for objects.

  • Work at eye level. Don't reach above your head or tilt your head back.

Sitting 

To protect your neck while sitting:

  • Set up your workstation so your monitor is at eye level. Also, use a document holder when viewing papers or books.

  • Keep your knees at or slightly below the level of your hips.

  • Sit up straight, with feet flat on the floor. If your feet don't touch the floor, use a footrest.

  • Avoid sitting or driving for long periods. Take frequent breaks.

Sleeping 

To protect your neck while sleeping:

  • Sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees, or on your side with a pillow between bent knees. This helps align the spine.

  • Avoid using pillows that are too high or too low. Instead, use a neck roll or pillow under your neck while you sleep.

  • Sleep on a mattress that supports you, with a pillow under your neck.