Three Easy Neck Exercises To Help Prevent Neck Pain

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Here’s something we know: we get neck pain. Probably because we slouch at our desk for hours on end. Here’s something we didn’t know: neck pain is second only to lower-back pain for reported general muscle or joint pain, according to the people behind the Reach Physio app, a service which offers online physio assessments and recovery plans for £19.99 a month or £44.99 for three months.

“Anybody can experience neck pain,” says Kate Robinson, physiotherapist at Reach, “but there are several factors that increase the risk. For example, if you sit in front of a computer for more than six hours a day. Anecdotally speaking, a lot of physios see patients who play rugby or are keen cyclists.”

“There can be several causes of neck pain, but only in 1% of all cases is it caused by a serious pathological condition,” says Andreas Hessner, head physiotherapist at Reach. “In most cases there is no known anatomical cause of the neck pain, even after thorough clinical examination by a doctor or physio. This is actually a good thing. Even though the neck pain may be very unpleasant, you can rest assured that it isn’t caused by anything serious and in most cases it will settle.”

All the same, it’d be grand to avoid neck pain altogether, so we asked Reach for some easy exercises you can try to reduce the risk of ever experiencing discomfort again.

The exercises are designed to increase mobility, strength and resilience in the neck. Try to do them five to seven times a week.

1 Neck retraction with towel

Sets 3 Time 40sec

This movement helps to strengthen the muscles at the front and back of the neck.

Sit tall on a chair. Put a small towel around the back of the head. Slowly draw your head backwards, keeping your chin down, while applying resistance with the towel. You should feel some muscle fatigue in this exercise, so apply as much resistance as you can by pulling your arms forwards.

2 Isometric lateral flexion

Sets 3 Time 40sec

This exercise bolsters neck stability by improving the endurance and strength in the muscles on the side of the neck.

Stand tall with your chest high and your neck retracted slightly. Place your right palm on the side of your head towards the top, so your forearm is parallel to the floor. Push your head into your hand with 75% of your maximum effort, using resistance from your hand to keep your head in a neutral position. Hold the position for 40 seconds, then repeat to the other side.

3 Supine chin nod with headlift

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 each side

This is a strengthening exercise for the muscles at the front of the neck.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and a small towel under your head. Start the movement by doing a small nod, bringing your chin slightly down towards your chest. Maintain your chin position while slowly raising your head off the floor. Hold for one second, then return slowly to the start. You can make this easier by supporting your head with your hands.

If you are experiencing neck pain you can get treatment from a GP or physio, or download the Reach app and get personalised exercises from Andreas Hessner or Kate Robinson once you’ve completed the online physio assessment.

Jonathan Shannon
Former editor

Jonathan Shannon was the editor of the Coach website from 2016 to 2024, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and used the training plans on the site to run a sub-40min 10K, 1hr 28min half marathon and 3hr 6min marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.