Neck & Spine Exercises

Develop neck and spine strength, flexibility and stability through exercise. Possessing these qualities will improve posture, prevent injury, lessen the severity of injury, should it occur, and improve productivity through greater coordination and functionality. Execute these exercises slowly with proper technique and work at your own level through a pain-free range of motion. If an exercise elicits or increases pain, skip that exercise and proceed to the next one.

Neck Stretches

Stand or sit with good posture. Grab the back of your head with your elbow pointing straight forward. Exhale and gently pull your head downward toward your chest until you feel a comfortable stretch in the back of your neck. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, relax and repeat with your opposite arm. Place your left hand directly above your right ear with your elbow pointing straight to the left side. Exhale and gently pull your head to the left. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, relax and repeat to the right. Let your opposite arm hang as low as possible and try placing it in different positions to work the neck muscles at various angles. Bend your head slightly toward your chin and turn your neck slightly to the right, grab behind your right ear with your left hand. Exhale and gently pull your head to the left at at forty-five degree angle. (Half way between straight-forward and directly out to the side.) Hold a comfortable stretch for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat to the opposite side. If dizziness, lightheadedness or headache occurs, stop immediately and sit down and rest until the symptoms have disappeared. Neck stretches will increase flexibility by lessening muscle tightness and elongating the muscles.

Turtle Exercise

Sit in proper posture and hold your head facing forward, not tilted downward or backward. Place two fingers on your chin and gently push your head straight backward until you reach a point where your head position begins to feel forced and uncomfortable. Back off slightly and hold your head in that comfortable position for six seconds. Exhale and relax. Perform three to five repetitions. Once your body understands the movement you can perform it without using your hands for assistance. The turtle exercise improves posture by re-educating the rear neck muscles and eliminating forward head carriage.

Bird Dog Exercise

Assume a kneeling position with both hands and knees on the floor. Hold your neck in line with your spine without hanging it downward or extending it upward. Raise your left arm in a controlled fashion directly in front of you and hold for two seconds. Lower and repeat with the right arm. Alternate arms for 12 to 15 reps. Inhale and flex your right hip by bringing your right knee toward your chest. Exhale, extend your hip and knee until your right leg is directly behind you in a straight position and hold for two seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat with the left leg. Alternate legs for 12 to 15 reps with each side. Once you’ve mastered the movements, you can simultaneously raise your left arm and right leg and hold for two seconds. Return to the starting position, then raise the right arm and leg left and hold for two seconds. Repeat for 12 to 15 reps. The bird dog exercise builds stability, balance and coordination in the spinal and core muscles by re-establishing correct movement patterns.

About this Author

Donald A. Ozello is the owner and treating doctor at Championship Chiropractic in Las Vegas, Nev. He is a writer for LIVESTRONG.com.