Neck Stretches to Remove Knots

By Susan Brassard

Whether you slept wrong on your pillow, put in too many stress-filled hours at your desk or overdid it at the gym, knots in your neck can cause discomfort and pain. When the muscles in your neck are constricted, they don’t readily relax, and it becomes increasingly difficult for your neck muscles to move properly. While symptoms can vary in severity, in the absence of a more serious condition or injury, stretching exercises can help to improve your flexibility and range of motion. Ask your doctor, physical therapist or professional trainer for guidance before doing neck stretches.

Neck-Retraction Exercise

The neck-retraction exercise is particularly helpful for eliminating a crick or knot in the neck, according to Dr. Gert Bronfort, lead author of a study reported in the Wall Street Journal. From a standing or seated position, flex and extend your neck muscles by slowly lowering your chin downward toward your chest. Pause for a few seconds, and then gradually raise your head to an upright position. To keep your neck muscles relaxed, execute the movement slowly and continue to breathe evenly. Repeat the exercise five times.

Lateral Neck Flexion

Lateral neck flexion stretches help to remove muscles knots by relaxing the muscles on the side of your neck. From a standing position, with your shoulders down and relaxed, lower your right ear toward your right shoulder as far as you comfortably can. Pause for a few seconds, and then gradually return your head to an upright position. Repeat the movement, lowering your left ear to your left shoulder. Execute the movements slowly to avoid rotating or over-stretching your neck muscles.

Neck Rotations

To decrease stiffness and increase flexibility and range of motion, you can incorporate neck rotations into your exercise routine. Facing forward and keeping your shoulders relaxed, slowly rotate your head toward your left shoulder. Hold the position for a few seconds and repeat the motion rotating your head to the right. To add a rotation to the neck-retraction exercise, raise your chin from your chest and continue to extend your neck back to look up toward the ceiling, then slowly rotate your head to the right, then left.


Yoga postures, such as the cat and boat pose might also help to relax and extend your neck muscles, although you should seek professional advice if you are not familiar with yoga practice. If the knots in your neck don’t improve, or your symptoms worsen with stretching, you should discontinue your exercises and contact your primary care provider. A professional massage therapist, chiropractor or exercise physiologist might be able to help hasten your recovery and suggest lifestyle changes to avoid further injury to your neck muscles.

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