Neck and Back Stretches

Between working out, lifting patients at work, and being on a computer the rest of the day, my back and neck are extremely tight. There’s muscles that pull, vertebrae that feel like they need to crack, and hips that are so out of alignment I walk funny. Somedays I get tensions headaches simply because of my back being too tight/out of alignment.

Searching the internet I came upon a lot of great ideas for stretching the back and relieving some of that stress. Here are some of the awesome yoga positions I have found that require little equipment – either a rolled up towel/blanket, or a foam roller.

Neck Blanket Stretch:

Roll a blanket into a firm, even cylinder large enough to wedge between the base of your skull and the tops of your shoulder blades. Lie back over the roll so it gently stretches your neck; the roll should wedge just under the occipital ridge at the back of your skull and support your neck and your first few upper back vertebrae. Keeping yourScreen Shot 2014-08-30 at 11.57.55 AM knees bent, place both palms on your forehead, fingers pointing toward the crown of your head, and bring your elbows close to each other. Close your eyes and tune in to your breath, feeling how its rhythm creates subtle movement. Notice areas in your neck, shoulders, and upper back that seem dense, dull, and resistant to the breath’s wavelike action, and invite them to relax against the blanket roll. As your muscles begin to release, slide your shoulder blades away from your skull; you may want to repeat this movement several times as your muscles continue to relax. Remain on the roll for up to five minutes, then remove it and continue to lie on your back for a few breaths, tuning in to the sensations in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. (Found here)

Seated Neck ReleaseScreen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.46.50 AM

  • Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position or in a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Extend your right arm next to your right knee or along the right side of the chair. Place your left hand on the top of your head and slowly tilt your head to the left. Apply gentle pressure with your hand to increase the stretch.
  • To feel a deeper stretch, you can hold onto your right knee or the seat of the chair. This stabilizes the torso and allows you to isolate the stretch on the side of your neck.
  • Hold on this side for 30 seconds, then slowly lift your head up and repeat this stretch on the other side.

(Found here)


Lie facedown. Bend the knees and grab your ankles. Press your feet into your hands, keeping your knees hip-width apart. Lift chest off the ground. Stay here for 5 deep easy breaths.Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.51.19 AM

(Found here)


Begin on your hands and knees. Then place forearms parallel to one another on the floor, shoulders distance apart, and lift your hips high. Drop head and reach chest back through arms in the direction of your feet to enhance shoulder opening. (Similar to downward facing dog, but on your forearms)

(Found here)

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.49.45 AM

And finally, I like to do a sequence of slowly switching between cat pose and cow pose. I breathe a few deep easy breaths in each pose and then slowly and fluidly move into the other, back and forth. I usually do this for the longest because as everything loosens it begins to work more and more and stretch more muscles. (found here)

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.57.09 AM

How To: Stretch After A Workout

How many of you have ever felt like this after a workout? Either 5 hours later, or the next day.. The muscle fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) happens. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 2.52.56 PM


Here’s how I help lessen/get rid of that pain.

1. Stretch

Any stretching will help with muscle soreness, both immediately after exercising, and the hours/days afterwards. My favorites are the simple stretches you probably learned in gym class, like quadriceps stretches, hamstrings stretches, and arm stretches. I like to stretch large muscles groups, vs. trying to pinpoint smaller muscles as this isn’t as efficient. Typically I will run through a stretching routine, and then foam roll immediately afterwards. Here’s an easy stretching routine to follow:

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 3.14.18 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 3.16.00 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 3.16.19 PM

2. Foam Roll/Tiger Tail

The benefits of foam rolling: (aka self-myofascial release)

Using a foam roller will help:

  • Correct muscle imbalances
  • Relieve muscle soreness and and joint stress
  • Improve neuromuscular function
  • Maintain normal functional muscle length.

Here are some examples of foam-rolling from the Perform Better website:

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 3.05.41 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 3.05.49 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 3.05.57 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 3.06.04 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 3.06.11 PM

Or, you can watch a video here:

Tiger Tail:

This is similar to the foam roller, but it is a handheld massage stick which I find works awesome for my legs, or I make M use it on my back. There are lots of different versions of this, Tiger Tail is just one brand.