These Are The 8 Best Exercises For Back and Neck Pain

These Are The 8 Best Exercises For Back and Neck Pain

Neck and back pain can derail the workout program of even the most disciplined athlete. Pain in these areas is rarely a direct result of lifting, but rather from spending too much time behind a desk and steering wheel.

Sitting causes our hips and hamstrings to tighten, producing muscle imbalances that manifest themselves in neck and back pain. Pain in those areas also is a byproduct of car accidents, which have become more prevalent in the last decade because of smartphone use and increased distracted driving. One 2017 study found that the rate of back and neck pain grew each year from 2004 to 2011, a trend that likely has continued.

That’s why it’s important, regardless of one’s history with neck and back pain, to undergo daily movements that counteract hours of daily sitting. Think of such a routine as prehabilitationor “pre-hab,” movements to avoid the injuries that might require rehab.

Here’s are eight moves that can keep you from enduring neck and back pain and missing workouts.



What it does: This two-part yoga movement improves flexibility to the lumbar and cervical spine (neck and back).

How to do it: Start on all fours with hands beneath your shoulders and knees on the ground. Inhale, dropping your chest as you push your hips and shoulder blades back into the cow position. Lift your chin and chest and gaze forward. For the cat, exhale as you draw your belly button to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling like a cat.

How many? 2 sets of 10 of each move.

Glute Squeeze

What it does: It activates the glutes.

How to do it: From a standing or sitting position, squeeze your left glute (butt cheek) and hold for two seconds. Release. Do a set of 10 on each side.

How many? Do these throughout the day and not just before a workout. Stand up once an hour at work and knock out a set of 10 on each side. Do them while sitting in traffic or while stuck in a meeting. Think of life as one continual glute workout.

Pelvic Tilt

What it does: This opens the hips and pelvis, which become locked down from too much sitting, contributing to back and neck pain.

How to do it: From a standing position with hands on hips and knees slightly bent, move your hips back and forth, tilting the pelvis. You should feel a stretch in the lower back. Be sure to move from the hips; don’t thrust from the crotch. This also can be done with hands on the small of the back for more of a stretch.

How many? 2 sets of 10.

Child’s Pose

What it does: The familiar yoga resting pose is effective for stretching out the shoulders, which hunch over from too much sitting and contribute to neck pain.

How to do it: From a kneeling position, touch your big toes together and sit on your heels. Separate your knees about hipwidth apart and lay your torso down between your thighs. Place your hands on the floor along your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. You should feel the weight of the front of the shoulders pulling the shoulder blades wide across your back.

How many? Hold the pose for 30 seconds, pause for 10, and hold for another 30 seconds. Repeat.

Rib Opener

What it does: This move lengthens and strengthens the muscles of the chest and back, creating mobility in the thoracic spine.

How to do it: Lay on your left side with the left (bottom) leg straight and your right (top) leg at a 90-degree angle atop a foam roller. Your left hand is on your right knee. Reach your right arm across your chest as if pinning a newspaper to the chest. Pull your chest to the right, getting a good stretch. Hold for two seconds.

How many? 2 sets of 10 reps on each side.

Bow and Arrow

What it does: A variation on the rib opener that also strengthens the muscles of the chest and back, creating mobility in the thoracic spine.

How to do it: Kneel on your right knee and place a short foam roller between the side of your left knee and a wall. Bring your hands together in front of you and then extend your right arm fully back, similar to a yoga Warrior 2 pose but with palms facing out. Hold for two seconds.

How many? 2 sets of 10 reps on each side.

Back Extension

What it does:
It works the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes

How to do it: Life facedown and stretch your arms out alongside your ears. Squeeze your glutes and use your core to lift your shoulders, chest, and feet. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pause at the top for two seconds. Repeat for a set of 10.

How many? Two sets of 10

Plank Superman

What it does: This builds core strength and stability while realigning the body from too much sitting.

How to do it: Start in plank pose with hands underneath the shoulders and head in line with your spine. Raise your right hand and left foot, maintaining a flat back. Hold for 5 seconds. Lower and switch sides.

How many? 2 sets of 10 reps on each side.

Pete Williams is a NASM-CPT and the author or co-author of several fitness books, including Core Performance and Every Day is Game Day. His work has appeared in publications such as Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, and USA Today.