Neck Stretches for Neck Pain Tune Up Fitness Blog » Neck Stretches – An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Neck Stretches – An Offer You Can’t Refuse

By: | Friday, September 23rd, 2011 | Comments 28

A client of mine had been complaining of pain radiating down her arm every time she did a supine revolved pose, such as Leg Stretch #3. Shoulder and upper back YTU Therapy Ball work helped but didn’t alleviate the problem. However, we had been overlooking her neck.

I can’t find the quote, so you’ll have to trust me on this one, but a physical therapist once said, “it’s the victims who scream, not the criminals.” In my client’s case the criminals turned out to be her anterior neck muscles (see related article for details). Nine car accidents (yes, 9—none of which were her fault, she claims—but that’s another story!) had traumatized her sternocleidomastoid, scalenes and playtsma—the superficial and deep muscles of the neck that attach at various points in the shoulder and chest. They aren’t called ‘whiplash muscles‘ for nothing.

We did Marlon Brando stretches to help relieve the chronic contraction (shown below and on the 5 Minute Quick Fix for Neck). By the end of that particular class her collarbones were visibly lower than when she walked into the studio. 10 days later all of her related arm pain was gone.

The next time arm pain has you stumped, try channeling your inner Godfather for good, and arrest those criminals.

Read how to massage away your neck pain with Therapy Balls.

See our solutions for neck pain.

Watch our neck stretch video on YouTube.

About This Author

I believe most people who end up in the fitness profession are trying to heal themselves. Fifteen years ago I sought out SPIN to rehabilitate a full knee reconstruction. Ten years ago I started Pilates to help me recover from a horseback riding accident. More recently, as still-young age and old injuries caught up with me, I began a restorative and Kripalu yoga practice. In every instance, with every discipline, I've experienced a moment of “ahhh....I want to make everyone feel this good.” And so began my path toward fitness studio ownership where I could keep my classes small and focused on my client's journeys from injury, through healing, and on to strength. In addition to figuring out how my clients and I could feel even better (as well as look better in our jeans), curiosity about human biomechanics led me to study with Helena Collins of Life in Synergy, Sadie Nardini of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, and of course, Jill Miller. Combing the knowledge from these tremendous teachers with my strong Pilates background has enabled me to create exceptionally effective programs for my clients, who range from joint replacement patients needing post-physical therapy help to the “uninjured” wanting stronger, better aligned bodies so they can experience life to the fullest.

Neck Stretches – An Offer You Can’t Refuse

  1. Marin says:

    I’ve just become the biggest Marlon Brando fan EVER. Thank you so much for this stretch! I’ve had whiplash three times and suffer from chronic migraines, many of which originate from the front of my neck. My medical massage therapist works on my front neck in every treatment, but I’ve not known how to help myself between treatments. Now I do! It’s so empowering.

  2. Stephanie Leger Stephanie says:

    Thanks for posting this video and addressing the scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, and playtsma – which was a new one for me. Loved the video and will certainly use it to help combat my chronic neck pain.

  3. Matt Sharpe Matt Sharpe says:

    I’ve recently had a difficulty with shoulder pain caused by what I’d guess to be the standard slouching position sitting at a desk all day. Even more recently I’ve been having neck pain. Connecting my own shoulder pain (supraspinatus primarily) to my neck pain would never have occurred to me until YTU Teacher’s Training. Thanks for posting this great stretch. Immediately, so much better.

  4. […] Afterwards, they feel a whole lot better each and every time. Riding a bike shouldn’t be a pain in the neck. Ride smart by rolling and strengthening your […]

  5. Angela says:

    I really enjoyed this stretch for my neck and adding the underbite helps to accentuate the stretch! Even more just self-massing my neck felt amazing. As someone who has suffered chronic pain in my neck, I know first hand how this pain can radiate through to my shoulder and wrist. I’ve used the Yoga Tune Up balls to access the back areas of my neck and now this video gave me another exercise for the frontal portion of my neck. Thank you!

  6. Cindy says:

    My number one request in classes I teach is to do neck stretches. I never thought to do the platysma or the front side of the neck. I guess, I was stretching areas where I felt tension. But this quick fix Rx video looks amazing and I cannot wait to try it out in class. I’d also like to mention in class how this can alleviate arm pain that might be mistaken for carpal tunnel syndrome, due some nerve impingment in the neck.

  7. Kate says:

    It really does show how much our muscles and even bodies are linked, Just because something is hurting doesn’t mean that is really the culprit. It is a good reminder to tell ourselves.

  8. Marc says:

    This is a great reminder to remember the neck and all its attached muscles. I particularly like the drawing down of the skin with the hands before attempting the Brando impression. We’re often not able to create enough cervical extension to fully stretch these muscles adequately.

  9. First time I have ever seen a stretch for the front of the neck! I always seem to focus on the back of my neck since I have a slight curvature. Now I have a way to work those muscles in the front of the neck.

  10. Victoria says:

    Great blog short and sweet but to the point. With so many of us creating poor posture on the computer, texting or just plain standing with forward head this series is such a relief. Thank you!

  11. bo says:

    A delightful read as always! My teachers in massage school always liked to tell us how impactful tight neck muscles could be. Sometimes they cause Carpal Tunnel Symptoms and when people look for relief through traditional means using braces or even surgery it doesn’t always work because the root of the problem is in their neck. The moral of the story: go to Yoga Tune Up before going under the knife

  12. Michele says:

    I have been experiencing tons of neck pain recently and the stretches feel great! I think I’ve had the habit of holding tension in my neck and sadly have gotten used to it. After stretching my neck I realize how good it can feel!

  13. Jackie Whately says:

    What a great stretch! This is not an area that I can massage for my clients or really stretch it for them, but now I can advise them on how to do it for themselves! And for myself!

  14. Karen Hsu says:

    I experience a lot of neck pain in the back of my neck from sitting in front of the computer and staring at lots of textbooks. Though most the pain I have is in the back of my neck, I have been feeling some of those effects creeping down into my shoulder. I think this blog makes a great point that it is really important to identify the hidden criminals that are the root of the problem. The stretches to the anterior neck muscles actually also helped to relieve some of the pain I was experiencing in the back of my neck.

  15. Diane Wrobleski says:

    Hi Christine,
    Now that I can identify that muscle with the long name (SCM for short), I can practice that stretch when my neck feels strained. The video is very helpful. Thanks,

  16. melanie slaone says:

    Christine, I loved thinking about the statement, “It is the victims who scream, not the criminals” in reference to the muscles!
    I believe that as Yoga teachers we do not really address the front of the neck muscles. I just watched your attached video and did the Marlon Brando stretch. My rear neck feels better!

  17. Debbie says:

    Thank you for this informative therapeutic manual stretch for anterior neck muscles. It’s easy to perform with proper instruction and I will integrate it into my patient’s home exercise program to alleviate spasm and pain. I will give you some feedback soon. DebbiePT

  18. Rachel Mattison says:

    First off, let me just say I love that Jill sounds just like Marlon Brando when she’s walking you through the motion in the video! I guess that explains how Christine arrived at the description. So when we “go to the mattresses” with our body work, it’s always interesting to see how fully integrated we are from top to bottom, front to back and interior to exterior. I experience a lot of tension in my neck as well – mostly due to forward propulsion of my chin during work hours as I concentrate on a computer screen (not to mention elevated shoulder syndrome!). I’ve generally always thought that forward flexion and lateral extension was the only way to experience relief. However, just as we strengthen our core to reduce back pain, extend our hip flexors to bring comfort to our glutes and hamstrings, it makes perfect sense that we could approach the pain in the back of the neck from the anterior perspective. And if we get better at Godfather impersonations in the process, hey, win/win! Thanks for the post!!

  19. Claire says:

    These are so helpful! I’m literally trying them right now. It’s easy to forget how much tension we hold in our necks.

  20. Jennifer says:

    For a while now I have been experiencing pain shooting down my right arm. I tend to torque my neck in almost all my yoga poses. I also hold a great deal of stress in my neck and shoulders. I will certainly try massaging the anterior muscles of my neck and see if this helps.

  21. Lindsay E says:

    This stretch was amazing! Whenever I get stressed, I clench my jaw in my sleep which causes headaches and issues with my neck and shoulders. The next time I wake up from a stressful sleep, I will give this stretch a try and see if it alleviates any of the discomfort.

  22. Chau says:

    That’s amazing. As a student, it’s hard to imagine that I could have the tools one day to be able to alleviate pain like that. Better than some Western doctors that just want to bill for fancy PT or pills and injections. I very much look forward to that!

  23. Hannah says:

    Such a a great stretch! It definitely addresses an area of my neck that I don’t think about too often.

  24. Emily Burritt says:

    This is a great stretch that involves two muscles of inspiration the scalenes and the sternocleidomastoid. If these muscles were tight, I wonder how much that would restrict inhalation.

  25. Jeffrey Wissler says:

    I am starting to understand that “it is the victims who scream not the criminals” saying right now. I have some bad inflammation in my right wrist and according to my massage therapist it is stemming from some issues in my neck and shoulders. She showed me some of the muscles in the neck and the ones I remember are the sternocleidomastoid and scalenes. I’m going to try out that stretch in the youtube clip and see if it helps relieve some of this tension I have, thanks!

  26. Sherry Matwe Sherry says:

    Christine, I have been in a car accident, and have been following many of your blogs – Thank you!!! and this particular one is so great I’ve been using the YTU balls on my back and massaging my neack and doing twists but I have neglected the front of my neck! It’s great though I tried it right away – Very interesting feelings…

  27. Andrea says:

    This really relieved pressure around the clavicle – but it also made my jaw and the back of my neck feel goo.

  28. Amanda Zerbini Amanda Z says:

    I have had whip lash twice (neither from car accidents) and love the idea of stretching out the anterior neck muscles that have been traumatized. I use to have reoccuring migranes often set off by a simple sit-up exercise. I always focussed on the trigger points on the tops of my shoulders and back of my neck but ignoring the front of my neck. The Marlon Brando stretches give great relief to the tired neck. Thanks, I will add this into my bag of tricks.

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