Relief dos and dont's for that nagging neck pain

Adjusting your position and posture can help.

When it comes to pain in your spine, the lower back gets all the attention. But the top of your spine—your neck—is equally vulnerable to pain. It's especially important to be aware of this as we spend more time with our heads bent low over computers and cellphones. "For every 10 degrees forward the head is from a neutral position, the weight of the head on the neck increases about 10 pounds. This can place a great deal of strain on the muscles, ligaments, joints, and intervertebral discs in the neck," says physical therapist Amy Devaney, of Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Move of the month: Neck stretching

Improve range of motion and ease tension.

These stretches help relieve tight neck muscles. At the same time, they reduce compression of the l0514e16207250425812vertebrae caused by such tension, and they help maintain or extend the neck's range of motion.

Start by facing forward. Turn your head slowly to one side. Hold the position for three seconds and return to the original position. Turn your head slowly to the other side. Hold for three seconds and return to the original position. Repeat 10 times.

Illustration: Scott Leighton

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Sign Up
Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.