A common complaint heard by rheumatologists from their patients is, "My neck hurts." If you have ever had neck pain you know how debilitating this can be. The neck consists of a column of seven vertebrae separated from each other by true joints (uncovertebral joints) in back and discs in front. This column is supported by a complex arrangement of ligaments and muscles.
While most neck pain is due to muscle strains- for example, the "crick" in the neck that can come on if you sleep in an awkward position- most people with neck pain after the age of 40 also have osteoarthritis and degenerative disk disease as well.
Here are five simple exercises you can do to help your neck feel better. Do not do these exercises until you consult with your physician or physical therapist. If possible, apply moist heat to the neck for five minutes before doing these exercises. That helps to loosen the muscles up.
#1. Stand up straight. Slowly turn your head as far as possible, slowly, to the right. While you're turning, count slowly to eight. That's about the right cadence for this exercise. Hold this position for a five count. Return to a neutral position. Then repeat the same motion to the left side. Do a total of five repetitions each side.
#2. Stand straight up. Slowly lower your chin to your chest. Hold this position for a five count. Slowly raise your head up and look at the ceiling. Do not force this. If it hurts, stop. Hold this position for a five count. Return to neutral and repeat this set of motions five times.
#3. Stand up straight. Slowly bend your head to the side bringing your right ear to your right shoulder. Hold for a count of five. Return to a neutral position. Repeat the same motion to the left side. Do five repetitions to each side.
#4 Stand up straight. Slowly and evenly roll your head clockwise in a wide circle up to the right, then down to the left. Then repeat the same motion in a counterclockwise fashion. Do this slowly. Repeat five times.
#5. Stand up straight. Take a deep breath in and with your arms down at your sides, slowly lift your shoulders up towards your ears. Pull your shoulders back as far as they will go at the very top of this maneuver, then rotate your shoulders forward again and exhale. Repeat this ten to twenty times.
Don't expect overnight miracles. These exercises will help you over time.