3 Neck Exercises for Quick Relief

Are you tired of that constant nagging neck pain that hinders your productivity and dampens your mood? We’ve all experienced those moments when the stress and strain of daily life seem to settle right in our necks, causing discomfort and tension. But fear not!

In this article, we’re here to share three incredibly simple yet effective neck exercises that can provide you with quick relief whenever you need it. Whether you spend long hours in front of a computer screen or carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, these exercises are designed to ease tension, improve flexibility, and promote relaxation. So, let’s dive in and discover the key to a pain-free and revitalized neck!

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The Importance of Breathing Mechanics

Now, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t talk a little bit about why we might get neck pain, and one of the biggest reasons is not so much that we’re sitting with the forward head posture or texting all day but rather poor breathing mechanics.

We breathe 25,000 times a day and ideally, we are using our diaphragm to do that. When we are breathing from our neck and shoulders, however, contributes to increased tone in the neck.

3 Neck Exercises for Quick Relief

Exercise 1: Optimizing Your Breath

One of the most crucial aspects of combating neck pain lies in optimizing our breath. If you want to take it a step further, you may explore airway dysfunction in detail. However, at the bare minimum, you can work on the basic mechanics of proper tongue posture—resting your tongue against the roof of your mouth.

As you breathe in through your nose, focus on directing your breath upwards instead of straight back, as this can make a significant difference. Additionally, allow your abdomen to expand 360 degrees like a big balloon as you inhale. This simple foundation will pave the way for the subsequent exercises.

Exercise 2: The Salamander

The second exercise is called the salamander. This is an exercise adapted from Stanley Rosenberg, who wrote “The Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve.”

To begin, interlace your fingers and place them behind the back of your head, ensuring they touch the occipital area. Gently bend your upper body to the side while simultaneously looking in the opposite direction with your eyes. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

Once you return to the center, switch sides, face forward, and look the other way while maintaining the hold for another 30 seconds. You can assess your range of motion both before and after the exercise to witness the improvement.

If one side causes slight discomfort, feel free to use one hand. By engaging our hands, eyes, and the neurological connection between them, we stimulate the vagus nerve and spinal accessory nerve, which leads to neck relaxation and overall nervous system calmness.

Exercise 3: Myofascial Release Technique

The last one that I really love is a myofascial technique that’s very simple, and you can do it anywhere, anytime.

Start by placing your hand flat on the outside of your neck, gently moving it towards your ear.

As you provide traction, you’ll naturally bring your head back into an optimal alignment, resulting in a pleasant sensation. Moreover, this technique targets the lymph nodes and stimulates the vagus nerve, promoting relaxation and an ideal head posture.

You can hold this position for 30 seconds up to two minutes, depending on your comfort level. It’s a highly valuable exercise that offers both release and stimulation.

Incorporating these Exercises into Your Daily Routine

I would suggest exploring all of these throughout the course of your day. These are three of many exercises that you could do to help relieve it. Although, if you sit at your desk all day, the most important thing is to get moving.

Always think movement variability is the key to preventing pain and injury.

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Did you know that mechanical issues at the level of your cervical spine can influence the proper function of your vagus nerve? This can ultimately affect your blood pressure, heart rate, gut issues, anxiety, depression, and more. Essentially, this is yet another potential underlying cause that you may want to explore as the root of your vagal nerve dysfunction.

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As we know from our vagus nerve anatomy, the vagus nerve exits the brainstem. As it comes forward through this jugular foramen, it branches into the ear and throat. Then it comes actually down right through the front of the neck before it enters the heart, lungs, and digestive track.

What happens when there is a restriction in mobility?

Any restriction in mobility can create mechanical pressure and, therefore, neuroinflammation of the vagus nerve. For example, forward head posture can create compression of the vagus nerve.  If you are sitting at a desk all day, have an airway dysfunction such as a deviated septum, small nasal valves, enlarged turbinates, tonsil and adenoid issues, could influence forward head posture.

We also want to think about forward head posture as a result of the nervous system. If we are stressed, anxious, and depressed, that will also lend itself to a forward head posture, potentially a rounded posture.

Breathing and posture are interdependent on each other. If there’s a breathing issue, there’s a posture issue; if there’s a posture issue, there’s a breathing issue.

What can you do if you have posture issues

1. Body awareness

We can become aware of how we hold our bodies throughout the course of the day. We can become in tune with our postures and our positions, how long we’re there,  and be able to simply just check-in.

2. Addressing the issue

The second thing is addressing or exploring what airway issues may be present for you. If you are suspicious of this, seek out a professional to evaluate you.

At the minimum, try Mutes, a nasal dilator at night, to open the airway up to 38 percent, along with Xlear. It is important to reinforce nasal breathing.

3. Try these vagus nerve hacks

There are many ways to stimulate the vagus nerve, and I’ve done several blogs and videos on different exercises that can be very helpful.

●     Trapezius twist

The first, by Stanley Rosenberg, is the trapezius twist.

Grab your elbows and rock them back and forth at waist level, chest level, and above your shoulders.

It wakes up the trapezius muscles in the back and improves your posture immediately.

●     Myofascial release

When your lymph is congested, this can cause inflammation of the vagus nerve.

With your hand moving in a diagonal direction under your jawline towards your ear, traction the tissue up very gently. Move the skin over the tissue.  

Hold that position until you have some release. This may come in the form of a sigh, swallow, yawn, or a feeling of just a sense of relaxation. It will immediately bring your neck into a better position and could potentially relieve not only mechanical pressure on the vagus nerve but the other cranial nerves and even spinal nerves as well.

●     Salamander exercise

This is a version of Stanley Rosenberg’s exercise that I found to be extremely helpful. You’re stimulating the vagus nerve while also relaxing the spinal accessory nerves.

To do this exercise, interlace your fingers and bring them behind the back of your head. From this position, side-bend your upper body, and look with your eyes in the opposite direction. Hold that position for 30 seconds, and then you’ll come back to the center and repeat on the other side.

You want to check your range of motion in your neck before and after, and there should be an immediate improvement.

This provides neurological input from your eyes and your hands to the back of your head. It brings blood flow to the brain stem, where the vagus nerve and other cranial nerves exit. This creates a relaxation response as well as stimulates the spinal accessory nerve to create relaxation in the Sternocleidomastoid muscle and the upper trap muscle.

The mechanical influence of how your neck is positioned, joint mobility, soft tissue elasticity, lymphatic congestion, and airway dysfunction can all influence your vagus nerve.

Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement, and if you’d like to reach out to us for a consultation, please do so we would love to help.

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