When you are performing the exercises, stop and contact your doctor or therapist if you notice:
dizziness, light headedness, blurred vision, fainting or disorientation
sudden pain shooting down your arm, or numbness or weakness in your arm or hand
unusually severe neck pain, and/or
that exercises consistently produce a headache, which persists.
These exercises are designed to restore the movement and muscle control around your neck and to reduce unnecessary postural strain and muscle pain.
For each exercise:
move smoothly and slowly, without sudden jerks; the key is precision and control
keep your mouth and jaw relaxed; keep your lips together, teeth slightly apart and let your tongue rest on the roof of your mouth
gently hold your shoulders back and down so that they are relaxed while you are doing all exercises (see posture correction exercise, exercise 4)
in movement exercises, try to move the same distance to each side. If one side is stiffer, move gently into the stiffness. Move to that direction a little more often
expect some discomfort, but remember exercises should not cause severe pain.
Exercises while lying down
Lie down with a soft pillow under your neck, and with your knees bent up.
Exercise 1: The chin nod exercise
Gently and slowly nod your head forward as if to say ‘yes’.
Feel the muscles at the front of your neck.
Stop the nodding action just before you feel the front muscles hardening.
Hold the nod position for five seconds and then relax.
Gently move your head back to the normal start position.
Repeat up to 10 times.
Exercise 2: Head rotation
Gently turn your head from one side to the other.
Look where you are going.
Progressively aim to turn your head far enough so your chin is in line with your shoulder and you can see the wall in line with your shoulder.
Repeat 10 times to each side.
Exercise 3: Shoulder blade exercise
This exercise will relax and ease any tension in the muscles on top of your shoulders and it will give you pain relief.
Lie on your right side with your arm resting up on two pillows. (See photo a, below.)
Roll your left shoulder blade back and across your ribs towards the centre of your back. (See photo b, below.)
Hold the position for 10 seconds.
Repeat five times.
Repeat lying on the left side for the right shoulder blade.
Exercises while sitting
You can do these exercises at work, in the car, on a train or bus and sitting at home.
Exercise 4: Correct postural position
Correct your posture regularly by gently straightening up your lower back and pelvis (sit tall).
Now gently draw your shoulder blades back and down.
Gently tuck your chin in. Hold the position with ease for at least 10 seconds.
This position will prevent and ease muscle pain and tension in your neck and shoulder muscles.
Repeat the correction regularly, every half hour during the day.
Exercise 5: Neck retraction
Sit in the correct postural position described in exercise 4, above.
Gently draw your head back, sliding your chin back horizontally and keeping your nose pointing straight ahead. You should feel the retraction movement at the base of your neck and your neck should stay long. (See photos a and b, below)
Repeat this 10 times every hour when sitting.
Neck strengthening exercises
Neck strengthening (exercises 9 to 11) should only be started later in your recovery. If you are unsure when to begin this, ask your treating health professional.
Exercise 9: Neck strengthening exercises (isometric, no movement exercise)
Sit in the correct postural position as described in exercise 4.
Make sure your chin is relaxed and slightly down.
Place your right hand on your right cheek.
Gently try to turn your head into your fingers to look over your right shoulder but allow no movement.
Hold the contraction for five seconds.
Use a 10 per cent to 20 per cent effort, no more!
Repeat with the left hand on the left cheek.
Do five repetitions of the holding exercise to each side.
Neck strengthening exercises whilst in the safe four-point kneeling position
Firstly, adopt the four-point kneeling position.
Begin by ensuring your knees are directly under your hips, and your hands directly under your shoulders.
Your lower back should be in a neutral position; that is, with a natural arch.
Gently draw your belly button to your spine (10 per cent effort).
Push gently through your shoulder blades, so that your upper back is level.
Draw your shoulders gently away from your ears, or toward your hips.
Lift your head up so that it is level with your shoulders, but maintaining a gentle chin tucked or nod position.
Once you can hold the safe four-point kneeling position, proceed with the neck movement exercises as described below.
Exercise 10: Neck bending and extension in the four-point kneeling position
Adopt the safe four-point kneeling position. (See photo a, below.)
Slowly look up toward the ceiling as far as you can go. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. (See photo b, below.)
Follow this by slowly bending your neck, leading the movement with a chin tuck or nodding action. (See photo c, below.)
Continue the neck bending movement as far as possible, aim for your chin to touch your chest.
Throughout this movement you should hold the neutral lower back and shoulder blade posture described above.
Perform 5 to 10 repetitions.
Exercise 11: Neck rotation in the four-point kneeling position
Adopt the safe four-point kneeling position.
Slowly rotate your head (turn your neck to one side).
It is important to maintain the gentle chin tuck or ‘nod’ position throughout the movement.
Also, make sure your head stays level with your body, and does not drop down.
If you do this exercise correctly, you should be looking over your shoulder at the end of the movement.
It helps to do this exercise positioning yourself side-on to a mirror so that you can check your head position.