The best neck stretches to give you instant pain relief

No matter if you've slept wrong, turned too quickly, or have been spending too much time looking at your phone, aches and pains, particularly in your neck, are no joke. And if you've been to a yoga class in the last few years, you're likely familiar with the term "text neck." The moniker has come to describe the posture modern humans find themselves in while looking at their phones, tablets, or laptops (via Healthline). Think slumped shoulders, head forward, and curved spine. This position tightens the muscles in the front side of the neck, compressing the structures throughout and also lengthening the muscles along the back of the neck, which can lead to intense discomfort. 

Soreness also often comes from chronically tense muscles (via Yoga Journal). And according to Medical News Today, neck tension "develops when the muscles in the neck cannot relax, which can lead to soreness, muscle spasms, and headaches." Wherever your neck strain is coming from, this type of pain can be debilitating. 

In order to help decrease tension and strengthen your muscles — and reduce pain — it's important to take time to stretch. So, if your neck is especially tight, slow down and try one of these exercises. 

Stretches for neck pain you can do while sitting down

Seated neck stretches help counteract pain from daily activities, such as working and exercising. Sarah Girard, national director of meditation and beginner's yoga for Bootcamp Republic, tells Prevention, "Our neck muscles are woven down into our shoulders, so the muscles in our shoulder girdle also affect the mobility or even stiffness of our neck." When you stretch in a seated position, it helps elongate any stiffness throughout your upper body from the shoulders to the neck. 

To help relieve pain, try a seated spinal twist. Start by sitting up tall in your chair on the right side (with your left side closest to the back of the chair), then gently turn towards the left side to hold onto the back of the seat. Use your arms to turn your torso further towards the back of the seat as you bring your feet together. Turn your head over your left shoulder to release tension throughout and breathe deeply until you feel the muscles loosen. Repeat on the other side. 

Another seated neck stretch to help ease pain throughout this area of the body? Neck rolls, which help lengthen the tendons on the side of the neck (via Yoga Journal). Start by relaxing in a seated position and dropping your head towards your chest — hold for five seconds as you breathe. Then slowly drop your right ear towards your right shoulder, holding for five seconds. Repeat toward your left shoulder. 

Stretches for neck pain you can do while standing up

Since neck pain is often linked to shoulder tension, try standing shoulder rolls to break up those areas. Bring your feet hip-width apart and start to breathe deeply. On an inhale, start to bring your shoulders up towards your ears, then slowly drop them down your spine as you exhale. Repeat this six times, then perform six circles in each direction (via WebMD). This movement helps to open the chest muscles, while stretching the shoulder and neck. 

The next stretch is a favorite of workout junkies and yoga enthusiasts alike. A classic shoulder opener, this neck release starts in a standing position with your fingers interlaced behind your lower back. Start to pull the knuckles towards the floor as you slightly lift your gaze and breathe (via Self). Adjust the intensity of the stretch as needed by tightening or loosing your downward pull.

Whatever you do, breathe deeply and be gentle with your neck; it may just need some TLC. Luckily, neck pain is no match for your breath and a few powerful stretches.