Neck & Upper Back Tension Exercises

by David Ochs

About David Ochs

David Ochs spent 12 years as a radio announcer in Illinois, Missouri and Denver before a 23-year stint as a national broadcast sportswriter for The Associated Press. He's covered nine Olympics. It's likely you’ve heard a radio announcer reading one of his scripts. Since 2006 he has won multiple awards managing resource stewardship communications for the Fairfax County Park Authority in Virginia.



Daily stresses and spending too much time at the computer are common reasons for that uncomfortable tightening you might feel in your neck or back. Fortunately, there are many exercises that can help you stretch those muscles and relieve the tension. No special clothes or equipment are necessary, and some helpful exercises can easily be done while at work or relaxing in front of the TV.

Seated Neck Stretches

When doing neck stretches, it’s important to move gently and breathe freely. Don’t bounce, and if you feel pain, you’ve gone too far. A simple neck stretch involves keeping your shoulders straight while bending your chin to your chest. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and then return you chin slowly to the starting position. Another good exercise is to rotate your head from side to side or to tilt it from side to side by bringing your ear toward your shoulder. Hold the stretch on each side for 15 to 30 seconds.

Roll Your Shoulders

The Pain Clinic says shoulder rolls work on the lower part of your neck and your upper spine. To do them, sit in a chair or stand up with your arms hanging loosely at your sides. Pretend you want to draw circles with the tips of your shoulders and try to make those circles as round and as big as possible. Rotate your shoulders clockwise for a minute or two, then repeat the exercise going counter-clockwise.

Squeezing Oranges

This exercise helps to release tension between the shoulder blades. Start by standing up and holding your hands behind your back. Imagine you have an orange between your shoulder blades and try to squeeze it by making your shoulder blades touch. Pull downward with your hands while moving the shoulder blades.

Shrug Your Shoulders

Shoulder shrugs can help prevent tightness in the area from your neck down to your shoulders. While sitting in a chair with your arms along your sides, pull your shoulder up toward your ears as high as you can. Hold this for three to five seconds before lowering your shoulders to the starting point. Do this up to three times or as needed throughout the day to instantly feel a reduction in tension.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or