I tried these 5 exercises to relieve tension in my neck – and I felt more relaxed immediately after

And they definitely helped reduce some of the pain!

Woman stretching her neck outside
(Image credit: Getty)

As well as getting unpredictable back pain, the tension in my neck is something I suffer from frequently, especially when I’m stressed — the downfall of being a perfectionist. I try to be as religious as I can when it comes to stretching after exercise, but my neck seems to be a body part that I always overlook, as I'm sure do many. Working from a desk all day doesn’t do it any favours either, so on a mission to relieve my achy neck, I decided to give these five stretches a go to see if it would help ease some of the tightness that I was experiencing.

Just like with back pain, bad posture is a common cause for experiencing pain in our necks, as well as sleeping funny at night (in which case you may need to invest in a pillow specifically for neck pain, such as the Groove Pillow). It can even lead to conditions like forward-head posture where your neck ends up slanting forwards, usually from sitting hunched over, whether that be your desk or phone.

What I like about these moves from personal trainer Emily Mouu is that they’re easy to do from home, and it was nice to do one that I wasn’t familiar with, like the puppy pose. Albeit, one move does require a foam roller. However, if you don’t have one of these, the other four alone offer a great stretch. I did these on my lunch break, and I found they really helped me to just slow down and reset before jumping back into work for the afternoon — something I think more and more of us are struggling with these days. Grab an exercise mat; here’s what you need to do:

  • Foam roller neck rolls — Lay on the floor with your neck placed on a foam roller and turn your head slowly from side to side.
  • Forward hang heads — Start by standing upright, then lower your head as close as you can to your knees and turn it slowly from side to side.
  • Puppy pose — Begin on all fours, push your bum backwards and extend your arms forwards while keeping your head facing the floor, like how a dog stretches out.
  • Seated neck bends — Sit on the floor using your opposite hand to reach over to the opposite side of your face while gently pulling the head across to feel a stretch in the neck. Repeat on the other side.
  • Seated cat/cow with neck rolls — Sit cross-legged on the floor, clasp both hands behind your head and pull your head towards the floor while rounding your back, then come back to a neutral seated position and look up towards the ceiling. Reapeat.

I found doing each of these moves for 30 seconds each was plenty of time to get a decent enough stretch and easily slot them into my day. There’s no reason why you couldn’t even do the second, third and fourth stretch in the office if it’s big enough. Sure, you may get a few odd looks, but hey, at least you’ll be neck pain-free!

If back pain is also a common companion with your neck tension, then I definitely recommend giving these two bodyweight back exercises a go that can relieve pain in two minutes. Alternatively, this gentle 10-minute full-body stretch is ideal if you need something to help you feel relaxed and revitalised to start your day the right way.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.