Your head weighs about 10 pounds. If you spend a lot of time leaning forward over a computer, a counter, or a workbench, or stooping over, gravity will gradually take its toll on your neck. The back of your neck will grow elongated and fatigued as it struggles along with your shoulders to pull your head back over your spinal support column. Meanwhile the front of your throat and upper chest will shorten and tighten from continual contraction. This will promote tension in not only your neck but also your face, throat, chest, and shoulders, restricting your breathing, digestion, and the circulation between your head and torso. The tension will echo down your body as your middle and lower spine strain to compensate for the imbalance in your upper spine.
This underscores the importance of neck exercises. Fortunately neck exercises are some of the easiest exercises to do.
When doing neck exercises, it’s important to also pay attention to posture and ergonomics. If your neck is placed in an awkward position continually all day, exercises will only offset the damage, not prevent or fix it. To maximize the effectiveness of neck exercises, pay attention to the placement of your head over your spine during the day as you sit, stand, walk, lie down, and perform routine activities. If you find your head is often drooping forward, notice this and practice making adjustments to line your head back up with your spine. Notice which muscles get tired when you do this and where you need to stretch and strengthen your body in order to keep your head in optimal position.
Here is an easy, relaxing neck stretching exercise routine almost anyone can do. You can practice this every day if you want, or every couple or few days is also okay:
+ Chin Tucks: Push your chin forward. Then tuck it in. Repeat up to 10 times.
+ Forward Head Tilts: Tilt your head forward from the base of the neck. Then tilt backward, being careful not to look so far back you lose your balance. Repeat up to 10 times.
+ Side Head Tilts: Tilt your head from side to side as if you were resting your ear on a pillow on your shoulder. Repeat up to 10 times.
+ Diagonal Head Tilts: Tilt your head diagonally from the front of one shoulder to the back of the other. Repeat up to 10 times on each side of your body.
+ Head Turns: Turn your head from side to side looking to your sides. Repeat up to 10 times.
This routine will build flexibility in your neck. To build strength, practice this routine one or more times a week:
+ Lie on your back and lift your head up to look towards your toes, without lifting your shoulders or using your stomach more than necessary. Hold up to 10-15 seconds.
+ Turn over on your stomach and lift your head up looking straight ahead, without using your shoulders or lower back more than necessary. Hold 10-15 seconds.
Do this regularly and you will not only gain flexibility and strength in your neck, but awareness of how your head affects your balance. You may find the stretches also help with tension in the face and eyes and headaches.