Best Exercises for Neck Pain

Neck pain is an extremely frustrating, debilitating experience that can even lead to headache pain or shooting pain down the arm. Many patients often ask us how they can cure neck pain quickly but also how they can prevent neck pain in the future. Incorporating certain stretches and exercises into your lifestyle can take just a few minutes, and can help you avoid a significant number of unnecessary surgeries and medications for your neck pain.

Dr. DeCaria, of Revitalize Medical Center in Glenview and Evanston, IL, is a double-board certified physician in pain management/anesthesia who has alleviated neck pain for countless patients across the greater Chicagoland area. Dr. DeCaria takes a holistic approach to address all aspects of one’s pain to treat the root cause and restore wellness. Below are some of her top exercise suggestions to help alleviate your neck pain.

Disclaimer: Do not perform any of these exercises without first consulting with your doctor or physical therapist. Do not perform these exercises if your neck pain is associated with a trauma, numbness or tingling down the arms or legs, weakness, changes in bowel or bladder habits, fever, or other neurological signs. If performing any of these stretches or exercises hurts, discuss with your doctor..

Daily Stretches or Exercises:

1: Anterior Chest Stretch

  1. Place a rolled-up towel or foam roller between your shoulder blades. Rest your head on the towel/roller. If your lower back is painful, extend the roller the length of your spine so that the end of the spine and your head are both supported.
  2. Spread your arms out to the sides, palms up, for 20–30 seconds.
  3. Then, bend your arms at the elbow up to form a 90° angle, and hold this position for 20–30 seconds. Then, relax.
  4. Repeat 2–3 times.

    Anterior Chest Stretch

    Anterior Chest Stretch Exercises

  5. Remove the towel and place one arm behind your head, with the other arm out to the side. Keep your legs bent and turned towards the side of your bent arm. You can place the towel/roller between your knees to keep your pelvis steady.
  6. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  7. Switch arms and repeat.

    Anterior Chest Stretch Exercises Steps

2: Chin Tucks: Demonstration here

  1. Bring your chin back, as if giving yourself a double chin.
  2. Hold this for 5 seconds. Think about someone pulling your head straight back from the center of the back of your head, while facing straight ahead.
  3. Repeat 5-10 times.
  4. You can do this for postural correction 3-5 times throughout the day.

    Before Chin Tuck

    Before Chin Tuck

    After Chin Tuck

    After Chin Tuck

3: Scapular Squeeze

  1. Stand up straight and bring your shoulder blades back towards one another.
  2. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat 10-15 times.

    Scapular Squeeze

4: Gentle Rotations

  1. Turn your head to the left and right through pain-free range of motion while lying down.
  2. While upright, move your neck gently through looking right and left as well as up and down.
  3. Repeat twice a day to increase mobility.

5: Self Myofascial Release

  1. Find the sore spots in your neck
  2. Try to release the trigger points with a tennis ball or foam roller (both of which can be bought for less than just $10!). You can also utilize ‘occipital release tools’ to relieve pain and tightness.
  3. This can be done every day to give pain relief.
  4. See the “Myofascial Release” post on under ‘Book Section’ for more pointers, as well!

Stretches or Exercises every 2-3 Days:

1: Scapular Strengthening Series: Demonstration here

  1. Start by laying on your stomach, arms at your side, forehead resting on a small towel roll if needed for neck comfort.

    Scapular Strengthening Series: demonstration


  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your arms up, with your palms facing the ceiling. Hold this pose for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

    Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your arms up

  3. Then, point your arms out straight to the side with your palms facing the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades back towards one another and raise your arms off the ground. Hold this for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times.
  4. Repeat entire set 2 times, 2-3 times per week.

    Squeeze your shoulder blades back towards one another and raise your arms off the ground

2: Scapular Squeeze into Locust: Demonstration here

  1. While laying on your stomach, reach your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers.
    1. If you are unable to reach your fingers, hold onto a yoga strap with both hands.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades back, allowing your arms to lift.
  3. Lift your head, followed by your legs.
  4. Hold and breathe slowly.
  5. Work up to holding this for 15-20 seconds as much as you can tolerate. Here

    Scapular Squeeze into Locust

Alternative methods like exercise and stretching can help relieve your neck pain, however additional complementary and conventional treatments may be needed. As a double board certified integrative pain doctor, Dr. DeCaria offers innovative treatment options unique to your pain that many other providers cannot. She will design a personalized treatment plan while working closely with you and your other healthcare providers to achieve optimal results. Come visit either our Glenview, IL or Evanston, IL clinic today!


This website (including all pages and blog posts) is not intended to replace the services of a physician, nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. To schedule an appointment at Revitalize Medical Center, please call (847) 834-4018.

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