Traveling for the holidays can be fun, but it can also be a pain in the neck. Try these stretches to keep your neck from being stiff and sore!
If you travel for business or pleasure, you probably know what it’s like to feel some muscle tension settle in after-the-fact. The most common complaint of travelers is a stiff and sore neck. A sore neck can be caused by dehydration, uncomfortable seated positions, poor posture, sleeping in an unusual position or from holding stress, tension, and anxiety in the muscles in the neck. If you notice that your head generally sits forward from the neck, this could be adding to the problem. Add an uncomfortable airplane seat to the mix and you’ve doubled the chance of feeling stiff and sore! While muscle soreness usually subsides after a few days and rarely is a result of something more serious, having any type of discomfort can keep you from operating at your best. Stretching and strengthening the muscles in the neck can aid the body in returning the neck to a natural position and avoid extra discomfort.
As we move into the busiest travel season of the year, pack these stretches in your back pocket to help keep your neck in good shape.
Levator Scapulae Stretch
This simple stretch will help elongate the large muscles in the neck that attach near the shoulder. From a standing or seated position, find the most neutral spine or natural seated position with good posture. Slide the shoulders away from the ears and intentionally find length in the neck. Take your left hand and place it behind the right ear and lower your left ear towards your left shoulder using your hand to add light pressure to deepen the stretch. Hold this position for 30–60 seconds before switching to the other side. If you feel any pain or tingling, reduce the amount of pressure you’re adding to the stretch
Your head is too heavy to not sit properly on the neck. Any imbalance can result in the neck over-working to hold the head up. Furthermore, tight muscles at the base of the skull can tug on the skull causing tension headaches. To restore a natural position to the head on the neck, utilize this simple exercise for 2 sets of 10–15 reps. Sit on a stability ball or bench to keep your back straight. Without moving the neck side to side or adding a tilt, place a few fingers on the chin and slide the chin straight backwards until you feel a stretch in the back of the neck. Return the head to a neutral position and repeat. To add some length in the back of the neck you can also do this exercise against a wall by sliding the head in an upward motion.
You can do these stretches daily, multiple times a day. If you forget to do your stretches to avoid neck pain, at the onset a stiff, sore neck, try alternating a hot/cold pack to the affected area in 10–15 minute intervals to decrease any inflammation. You can also try supplementing with some turmeric root that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Setting a timer on your phone to remind you to practice your stretches can also help to bring the attention back to your body and back to YOU!