There are a number of key muscles about the neck that commonly become tight and painful as a result of poor posture, stress, poor diaphragmatic breathing, overuse or injury. Stretching these muscles may be beneficial for many patients, but like commencing any other form of exercise, a prior check from your health care professional is advised as these stretches may not be suitable for your particular condition. Move slowly when moving into and out of these stretches, use common sense and listen to your body. Discontinue and consult your healthcare professional if any of these stretches exacerbate your pain. As with most static stretches, holding for between 30 - 90 seconds is generally considered the best approach, and these stretches should ideally be repeated a number of times each day for greatest benefit.
The levator scapulae is one of 18 muscles that attach to the shoulder blade (scapula), and one of the 5 major scapula stabilisers. It runs from the upper middle corner of the scapula and attaches to the outside of the neck (cervical) vertebrae and is a very common cause of neck and shoulder pain.Seated stretch (right levator scapulae)
The trapezius muscles are large, thin, superficial muscles that run from the shoulders to the spine, from the mid-back, all the way up to the base of the skull. Common pain referral patterns from the upper trapezius muscle run from the neck and shoulder area into the back and side of the neck, and often up over the ear and into the temple area producing a headache.Seated stretch (right upper traps)
The scalenes are deep muscles located at the front of the neck. They commonly become tight from poor sitting posture and faulty breathing patterns. Irritable scalene muscles are capable of producing pain all the way down the arms and into the fingertips. They are also a common cause of pain over the back of the shoulder and down along the inner (medial) border of the shoulder blade. Occasionally they will produce pain into the chest, toward the nipple. A rare, but interesting symptom is that some chronic cases may also find it hard to fully bend all of the fingers on the hand and make a tight fist.Stretching the scalenes is most safely performed lying flat on your back.Supine stretch (right scalenes)
The sub-occipital & posterior cervical muscles are also stretched when performing the above stretches, so separate stretches for these muscles are generally not required.
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