Neck & Upper Extremity Stretches

Keeping your neck loose and flexible is critical for the prevention of neck pain, headache, jaw issues and even pain into the shoulder and arms.

It will also help prevent arthritis in the neck over time. You’ll sleep better, work better, and be able to check that blind spot without effort.

Neck stretches for the win!

**Working out a shoulder injury can take some serious time, effort and energy. These shoulder and arm stretches are absolutely critical for your recovery.

And hey! Let’s be honest, the hardest stretches to do are the ones you need to do the most. 

Let’s stretch!!

NECK

We all know how important our neck muscles are. They deal with a tremendous amount of stress on a daily basis. It’s no surprise why so many of us suffer from headaches, sinus issues, balance issues, postural distortions, and more. Taking care of them is critical. We all WANT to be headache and pain free, but are we actually doing the work to prevent that?

Helps with: Neck pain, headache, balance, sinus issues, arm issues, shoulder problems, numbness into hands, carpal tunnel syndrome, much more.

DETAILS:

To stretch the neck, we want to address every direction the neck can move. So do each position: forward (flexion), backward (extension)**, rotation (both directions) and lateral bending (both sides). Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times.

Usually, the weight of the head is enough to put a stretch on the muscle, especially when it’s tight. If you need more, place your hand on your head and don’t pull, but use the weight of your arm to do the work. Don’t overstretch!

**SPECIAL NOTE:  We spend SO much time in flexion (forward) while working, computers/phones, studying, even sleep, most people ignore the front of the neck. It’s a huge problem! Extension (backward) movement of the head is SO important. The muscles in the front of the neck get really tight and can trigger headache, numbness/tingling into the arms, postural problems, sleep issues and so much more. Make sure to spend time on the front of the neck!!

This is SO easy to do and can have a huge impact on your health. Let’s do this!!

PECS-Chest

The pectoralis muscles are VERY strong. They compete constantly with the muscles of the upper back, which are quite thin in comparison. Keeping them loose and flexible is critical to keep them in balance. There are plenty of ways to do this, but these are the simplest stretches, easiest to do on a daily basis.

Helps with:  shoulder problems, neck pain, posture issues, upper back pain, arm pain, wrist and elbow issues, chest pain.

DETAILS:

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both sides. Try different positions for your arms in these stretches. You’ll notice that you target different parts of the muscle. The toughest stretch is the one you need to do the most.

Remember to never stretch in pain.

FOREARM & WRIST

I see a tremendous number of wrist and forearm issues. These usually come from super tight muscles due to work, computers, phones, repetitive strain, poor ergonomics and more. Many wrist and hand issues actually come from the elbow. Most of the muscles that move the hand and forearm begin at the elbow!

Did you know there are 8 little bones in your wrist?

Helps with:  wrist pain, arthritis, carpal tunnel, thumb pain, elbow pain, tennis elbow, golfers elbow, repetitive stress injury.

DETAILS:

Find a nice flat surface and get your hands and fingers as flat as you can. Move your body “toward your fingertips” as you do these stretches. Your goal should be to move your shoulders past your fingertips.

There are 4 (four) important positions:

  1. 6 o’clock position (fingers pointing toward you)
  2. 9 & 3 o’clock position
  3. 12 o’clock position (fingers pointing away from you)
  4. palms up, (fingers pointing toward you)

NOTE: The key with these stretches is to keep your hands flat and bend at the wrist. Try not to cheat. That won’t help you one bit.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both arms.

Remember to never stretch in pain.

CALVES-Back of Lower Leg

Your calf muscles are some of the strongest in your body. They’re also some of the most elastic. This means that it can take a while before your calf muscles respond and actually lengthen. Think of the toughest piece of dough you’ve ever made a pizza or a pie out of. The ankle is a poor lever so the calf needs to be VERY strong. Every time you take a step, your calf muscle springs into action and stabilizes your ankle AND your knee at the same time.

Helps with:  knee pain, ankle pain, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, lower back pain, gait issues, bunions.

DETAILS:

With a shoe on, put your toe on the wall with your heel resting on the floor. Keep your leg straight and just lean in toward the wall.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both sides.  Remember to never stretch in pain.

NOTE: A modification is to turn your foot 20degrees inward to stretch the inside of the calf, and then 20degrees outward to stretch the outside. Try it. You might notice one side is tighter than the other.

GLUTE/HIP –

Because we sit so much, the glutes can get really tight. This stretch isolates parts of the glutes and hip rotators to help keep your hip and pelvis flexible and healthy.

Helps with:  normal walking gait, hip pain, lower back pain, sciatica, knee pain, calf and foot pain.

DETAILS:

In a sitting position, put your ankle on your opposite knee. If you can’t get to this point, place your ankle somewhere along your lower leg and then use a tea towel or exercise band to pull your ankle higher towards your knee. Don’t worry, you’ll get better at this.

There are THREE positions: With your ankle on your opposite knee,

  1. press your knee down toward the floor. You should feel this in the front of your hip.
  2. pull your knee toward your opposite shoulder (the side with the ankle on the knee)
  3. lean your upper body forward toward the floor. You should feel this in the lower back and glutes.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both sides.

Remember to never stretch in pain.

GLUTE/HIP – PIGEON

For some, this is going to be a challenge. However, it is also one of the most effective stretches to prevent sciatica and help with lower back pain and hip flexibility.

Helps with:  normal walking gait, hip pain, lower back pain, sciatica, knee pain, foot alignment.

DETAILS:

Carefully get your leg in front of you at 90 degrees. Lean forward as far as you can while feeling a moderate stretch in your hip. Please don’t push too hard here. Let your body relax into the position and you’ll go much farther. Remember to breathe. For some, it’ll be easier to be able to lie flat out on the floor. For others, not so much. Don’t worry. Either way, you’re doing a great job and you’re really helping your spine be more flexible and more functional.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both sides.

Remember to never stretch in pain.

Child’s Pose

This standard yoga pose is amazing for your lower back, but also for your pelvis, mid back, and even shoulders. It’s a relaxation position in yoga but we can use it to help stretch a ton of tired and sore muscles. For some, this is a “go to” stretch to target multiple areas at one time.

Helps with:  lower back pain, sciatica, hip pain, upper back tension/pain, shoulder flexibility, stress, anxiety, abdominal stretching.

DETAILS:

Try and stretch out in front of you as much as you feel comfortable. If you can, rest your head on the floor. You can use a small pillow if you can’t reach the floor. Just relax and hold the position, and you’ll be stretching so many good parts of your body.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Do as many times as you like.  Remember to never stretch in pain.

NOTE: To better isolate the upper back, while keeping your hands on the floor, bend your upper body, without twisting, to either side. This is a fantastic way of stretching your mid to lower back. .

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