Pinched Nerve in Neck Exercises

Pinched Nerve Neck Exercises

Pinched Nerve Neck Exercises

Stretching can alleviate Neck Pain

Neck stretching and strengthening exercises can be very effective at reducing neck pain and discomfort both in acute and chronic conditions. However, a pinched nerve in the neck may mean that some exercises are inadvisable as they have the potential to actually exacerbate your condition and worsen your neck pain.

As a pinched nerve may occur at many points in the complex area of the cervical spine it is important to discuss your particular symptoms with your doctor prior to carrying out any of these exercises and, ideally, creating a specific programme of strengthening and stretching neck exercises for a pinched nerve with a physical therapist.

Stiff Neck and Aching Pains

Stretching exercises aim to preserve or restore the range of motion of the neck, ensuring that the muscles of the neck and upper back are loose and supple, rather than stiff and more injury-prone. By stretching the neck the stiffness that can cause aches and pains and lead to further inflammation can be relieved, often resulting in the improvement of the symptoms associated with a pinched nerve. While many cases of pinched nerves heal spontaneously with sufficient rest, there may be some incidences that require a little longer, further intervention, or specific treatment; these options should be discussed with your physician.

Gentle stretching exercises performed each morning can help to alleviate stiffness and these can also be done just before bed for extra benefit. Any sharp neck pain whilst doing the exercises should prompt you to cease that particular stretch; some mild muscular aching may be felt which is normal. As you conduct the exercises take care to control your breathing as it is easy to tense up and hold your breath without realizing – this risks injury to the muscles as they are starved of oxygen and become stressed. The basic rule of thumb is, as in most yoga practice, to exhale as your conduct the movement and breathe into the stretch.

Neck Tilt Stretch

Neck Tilt Stretch

Neck Tilt

A simple stretch to begin is the forward neck bend which involves tilting the head forward so as to touch your chin to your chest (with your mouth closed). Hold this for a couple of seconds and then release the head back to its upright position gradually as your breathe out. Repeat ten or so times and remember to relax your other muscles as you do each repetition.

Shoulder Roll

Shoulder Roll

Shoulder Roll

Next, try a shoulder roll, or ten, by holding your arms at your side with your elbows bent. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and roll the shoulders backwards in a circling, smooth motion ten times or so. Then repeat the motion in a forward fashion in order to relax the muscles of the neck and upper back. Take care to breathe regularly and easily.

Neck Rotation

Rotating the neck can also help relieve a pinched nerve’s symptoms (check with your doctor first). Either sitting or standing, slowly turn your head to look to the left and then hold the stretch for a couple of seconds before returning to the center, rest and then repeat ten times alternating to the left and right.

Lateral Flexion

Lateral Flexion

Sideways Neck Tilt (Lateral Flexion)

The next stretch is a little harder for most people and you should ensure to keep your shoulders relaxed during this stretch. Whilst looking straight ahead tilt the top of your head to one side as if trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. Hold for a few seconds and then return your head to a straight position. Repeat ten times in each direction ensuring a slow, smooth movement each time with no bringing up of the shoulder to meet your ear.

Upright Cat Stretch

Upright Cat Stretch

Upright Cat

To stretch out the upper back you can conduct a variation on a popular yoga pose, the cat, whilst standing and leaning forwards from the hips. Rest your hands on a low surface, such as a sink of kitchen counter, keep your elbows straight and allow your head to drop forward gently as you gradually arch (round) your upper back. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and breathe slowly in order to deepen the stretch. Slowly resume an upright standing position with your hands on the counter and repeat the stretch ten times, taking care to exhale into the pose. This can also be conducted whilst on all fours in order to stretch out the whole of the back, but may not be suitable for everyone.

Neck Flexion Stretch

Neck Flexion Stretch

The Levator Scapulae and Trapezius Muscles

A good exercise to stretch out the levator scapulae involves placing your hands behind your head and slowly moving your chin to your chest as you turn slightly to one side. Hold the position for five or so seconds and return to the center. Repeat on each side ten or so times. To stretch out and strengthen the levator scapulae and the trapezius muscle, which is a common site of neck pain take up a position on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor at shoulder width apart. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and feel you neck arch slightly and your head tilt slightly backwards. The upper trapezius (at the top of your shoulders) should be relaxed during this stretch as should your neck. Release the position and repeat.

For each exercise take care to watch your breathing, relax into the stretch and discontinue if you feel any sharp pain. Talk to your doctor about any specific pain you encounter as this can be a sign of further neck pathology which may be easily addressed. Devising a tailor-made stretching and strengthening programme with a physical therapist will give you the best results, otherwise these stretches can help to maintain motion and reduce the likelihood of further incidences of neck pain.

893 replies
  1. Joyce Angell
    Joyce Angell says:

    Thank you so much for this info – I will try to complete theses ‘exercises’ on a daily basis with the hopes of relieving some of my ‘neck’ pain.
    I’ve been told that I need at least a 2level fusion – I think he said 5/6. I have already had 3 different ‘spine fusions’ and now fused from L/2-S-1 with 10 screws-4rods and 6cages. The only way I make it through a day is with “prayer” and websites such as your who give me ‘excellent’ info and insight.
    Please keep up the good work – WE need you!
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  2. Val Waters
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    I got a second opinion when it come to my lower back, I have two bulging disc one on top and one on the bottom of a disc that is bone on bone L2-L5, one Doctor wamted tp dp sirgeru asap, the other said exercise and epideral shots to control the pain also that if I have one surgery there will be another and another and another. I had a spinal fusion done last November on C-4-C5 because of the pain less than 5 months and all the symptoms are back, waist of time and money. At this time I’m thinking the exercising as done wonders

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    i have chronic neck and shoulder pain and low back pain, i am a carpenter andworked 35 years in high rises and bridges in chicago, i also have arth

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    I thank you, I went to my doctor, and he wanted jsut to drug me up, I siad yoiu are gettingpaid not to put my on antiflamatory drugs, I could do that over the counter, he said all I have is just a pinch nerve, then I said how about phsical therapy Doc? his respond is that if it is more serious,then psysical therapy might damage me more, then I said if you were just going to drug me and do nothing , then he said he will do an Mri. what the heck from a drug (antiflamatory , to an Mri) go figure

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