How can I release tension in my neck/shoulders? -

How can I release tension in my neck/shoulders?

16 Answers

Transform your anxiety, fear, and self-doubt into confidence, self-worth and trust.

I can't agree with Dr. Rebecca Sanders enough on getting curious about the emotional component of your physical tension. My modality is EFT Tapping, so I'll be looking at your question through that lens. Tapping utilizes different endpoints (acupressure points) along the meridian lines of the body. When there is a block of some sort, the energy in our body can't flow freely (think of a garden hose with a kink in it). Energetic blocks can form for a variety of reasons, but they're likely caused by emotion(s) that our body hasn't processed, which can show up as a physical manifestation.

The great thing about Tapping is you can focus on the physical sensation directly and get relief. However, unless the emotional root is also treated, the results might not be permanent.

El Vineiz-Cox
I integrate body work and energy medicine to facilitate increased wellness on a "whole-istic" level. When mind, body, and spirit are engaged in healing, results are more far-reaching.

One of the first things I do in a massage therapy session is a postural assessment. This is easy to do at home in front of a mirror. You will need the biggest mirror you can find and a phone with a camera and a timer setting. First, stand naturally. Position your camera, and take a timed picture on your phone to show what that looks like from the front, from both sides, and from the back. Don't start criticizing; just study it neutrally. Then try correcting your posture in front of a mirror. What you're looking for is what is called "stacking." Start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart. Face your middle toes forward. Check your ankles for rolling in or out, and get them centered on your feet. Stack your knees directly over your ankles, your hips over your knees and ankles. Imagine your pelvis is a giant soup bowl, and you don't want it to spill forward or backward. Roll your pelvis forward and back until you come to a neutral position. Stack your shoulders over your hips. Check your back in the mirror. Bring your shoulderblades together and roll your shoulders out to give your chest space. Stack your ribcage over your hips. Recheck your shoulders over your hips, and then roll your chin up and down until you find a neutral. Bring your chin back, without tipping it up, until your ears are over your shoulders. Notice how this posture feels. This will give you a good idea as to what muscles are overcompensating, and what exercises would be good to do. If you have pain when stacking through your spine, pursue massage and/or chiropractic care to decompress it. Chiropractics correct bone position, and massage releases tension and tonifies muscles to help it hold. I hope this answer helps.

Dr. Rebecca Sanders, DC RYT(500)
I use muscle testing to find the root cause of your pain & dysfunction. Solutions include: chiropractic, deep tissue , reiki, dietary changes, emotional release, yoga therapy, herbs, and much more!

One thing that many practitioners do not talk about is Emotions – the “Energy in motion” inside of us. Sometimes this energy in motion or emotions can get stuck in our bodies and live unconsciously. We are feeling emotions without realizing we are, and this stuck energy tends to get stuck in tight areas in our body.
Emotions can get STUCK and wreak havoc on the body. We don’t “realize” we are feeling them, it is unconsciously stuck. But the emotion can randomly pop into awareness for us to process it out of our body.
They get stuck for a multitude of reasons: negative thoughts, familial inheritance, environmental assimilation, physical imbalances…. ext.
I use a muscle testing technique that identifies the type of emotion, where it is located, and where did it come from and why. It is a blessing to all my patients who realize how they can live a lighter more energy filled life after finding and realizing trapped emotions. We start living in a more harmonious state with the true nature of love. Stuck energy only gets trapped in the body because of fear, and if we don't find the negative energy and release it.. we will keep attracting and experiencing the negative in our lives.

Dr. Jessica Klain PT, DPT
Healthcare on your terms! Personalized health & wellness services to live your healthiest life. Specialties: headache, concussion, joint & spine pain, vestibular & balance, and running ailments

There is so many great suggestions here already. Another component to add is to look into your work station set-up, car positioning, and sleep habits. When we add up the time we spend in these 3 spaces it is A LOT! The more ergonomic these 3 set-ups are, the less stress and less tension on our body. Ideally, we want the things we are sitting on and laying on to do most of the work so our body doesn't have to be "on" all the time. There is no one size fits all chair or mattress for everyone, so the key is the adjust based on your body type/size and your comfort.

I also second postural strengthening (specifically deep neck flexors and scapular stabilizers), proprioceptive awareness training (knowing where you are in space), soft tissue mobilization/massage and gentle stretches to help manage to niggles that always tend to pop up in our lives.

Keri Sitrick, MA, FMCHC, NBC-HWC
Find the old YOU who has been lost, the one with energy, confidence, and independence from medications. Get back to doing things you are passionate about and find healing in return.

Gentle neck stretches, mobility massage ball on the wall or floor, massage, therapeutic pillows, stress management with the help of a coach. :)

Jen Howe, MPT, FMCHC, NBC-HWC (Physical Therapist and Health Coach)
I am here to support you in your wellness journey. Together we uncover areas of your life that need attention and develop healthy habits to help you reach your fullest potential and feel amazing.

Such a great question and one that so many people struggle with! Love the collection of answers already here! I will add my two cents...As a physical therapist I encourage my clients to investigate what they think is causing the tension in the first place. This might be non-ideal posture, a workstation that isn't ergonomically designed, tired eyes at the computer that makes them bring their face closer to the screen, get the idea. Once you have figured out what triggers the tension, then you can change that.

In addition to changing the cause of the tension, it is great to give those tight muscles a little TLC through gentle stretching. Stretching the neck can be helpful, but don't forget to open the chest to help you sit with better posture as well as stretch out your lats that may be pulling your shoulders down and forward.

Don't forget about strengthening the posture muscles to help you keep that good posture you are working on...this would include strengthening the core, upper back and neck stabilizers.

Lastly, make sure you have a good pillow!!! If the neck isn't properly supported at night, you will likely wake up with a stiff neck! My current favorite pillow is the COOP pillow. It is chopped non-toxic foam that holds its position just right and you can adjust the amount of stuffing.

Andre Studer, CMT, PTA, RMT & Health Coach
Health Coach

Meditation with deep breathing or stretching with out rolling your neck. Do static stretches by reaching over with your opposite arm over your head and try to place that palm over your ear and gently pull. Begin breathing taking deep breathes in your nose for 5 seconds. Hold that breath and let it settle for 5 seconds before you slowly exhale lasting for 5 seconds. Ten big breathes and slowly release your head and switch sides. Do it side to side and you may also do this front to back. If it's easier or more comfortable use a hand towel to put behind your head to pull it forward by holding each side of the towel. If this does not work then I invite you to make an appointment for a Regional Massage for your neck and shoulders.

Hello there! I am Kat. I was born to this planet to help people in a profound way. Mentoring and healing practices are my methods.

Getting to the core of what is causing the tension is most important. Sometimes it’s as simple as stress and digging into what is really causing the stress.

Many of my clients lose hours from work because they are in such pain. Stress can do some nasty things to your body!

I work with Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)which is a science-backed method to retrain your mind and create healthy new neuron paths, while working on reducing those stressful conditions in the background.

Combining NLP mentoring with some yoga or deep massage, you can relieve the pain, set yourself up for facing stress in the future and will be back to feeling human again.

Tension patterns in your neck and shoulders is caused by stress that your system has been unable to release. Our bodies store emotional stress in our muscular system. As Dr. Mel Krug's video suggests, when your body becomes stressed, your posture will be affected and postural imbalances can lead to tense muscles, sore muscles, and many other health conditions. NetworkSpinal, a gentle form of chiropractic care, is designed to balance the tension in your body so that your effortlessly adopt a more relaxed posture and physiology. I hope this helps!

H! I'm Antoinette, a full time, hands-on advanced Body Practitioner who offers integrated Massage & structural bodywork for over 30 years,

I would suggest starting by checking your posture by looking sideways in a mirror. In today's world, cell phones, computers, sitting slouched on the couch or even overexerting in an activity you enjoy can claused muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. Look to see if you shoulder are rounded. Is your head forward of your shoulders? If so, the muscles in the neck and shoulders are bearing the weight of your head causing tension. The spine is meant to bear the weight of your head, the muscles are meant for movement. This must be corrected for any relief to occur. Try tucking your chin in and lifting your rib case while breathing normally. Don't stick you chest out...just elongate by lifting the rib cage. Tuck your chin in by moving the head directly back and not lifting the chin up. Hold for a few minutes while breathing deeply and slowly. Practice correcting your posture frequently. In the meantime, you can use a hand towel, folded it length wise two times, wet it and wring it out, leaving it a little on the moist side. Place towel in microwave for a 1-2 minutes. Remove and test the hotness on the inside of you wrist. If it a comfortable temp, then wrap the hot, moist towel around your neck and shoulders. Take long deep breaths from lower abdomen and bring the breath all the way up to your neck. Exhale slowly. Reheat towel and repeat this process a couple of times until muscles soften. Next best thing is to go in for deep tissue massage to release the chronic muscle tension that has been there for quite awhile. Muscles have memory and tend to go back to the same bad habits unless trained to know what a state of relaxation is. And it helps to address other involved muscles and improve your posture. Feel better!!

Naturopathic and Chinese Medicine Doctor

Since there have already been some excellent answers on specific techniques, I want to ask what that tension is all about? Our bodies always do things for a reason. Why has yours decided to hold tension in that area? What is the tension a response to?

Without knowing this deeper piece most physical techniques, though they may help temporarily, will probably not help your neck and shoulders relax more permanently.

Licensed Acupuncturist in a sports physical therapy clinic with integrated techniques for patients who seek to enhance their quality of life

I find muscle releasing in acupuncture to be effective if the tension has a muscular component. Releasing the tight fibers allow the surrounding tissues to spread out and lay flatter so you do not feel as much tightness or tension. If the tension has a stress/emotional component, acupuncture can also address the underlying cause that could be feeding into the muscle tension, giving you an integrated approach to both aspects of tension. It is also a good idea to incorporate gentle neck stretching and proper hydration, along with monitoring your posture throughout the day.

Dr. Michael Weiner
Evidence based spinal corrective approach to align the spine and posture into its proper position to improve health.

It all depends on what is causing that tension. It can be from the neck, upper back, and what I find a lot due to alteration of the biomechanics of the spine (increased mid back curve, reversed neck curve, spinal ligament instability) all seen on X-ray. If you wanted to learn more about that, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Easy stretch for the upper back/neck muscles (depending on the motion, it will target specific muscles):
1. Take left hand, put it on the top right side of the head and move left ear to left shoulder
2. Turn head to the left
3. Move head down or up

This will work the muscles on the right. Do the same thing to the other side for the muscles on the left.

Depending on the muscle that is tight, moving the head up or down will stretch out different muscles. Also, turning your head to the right or left will stretch other muscles too.

Easiest thing to do - try out all the motions and whatever stretches you out more, hold for 5 seconds, then press into your hand for 10% energy, and stretch for 5 seconds and repeat the process for 5-10 times. Do this for a minute to two minutes per side and you'll be a new person!

Inspire Life Chiropractic Center.

Here is a great video we've created for our clients who struggle with chronic neck and shoulder pain...

I am a Yoga & Meditation teacher that specializes in working with people with injuries. I offer private, group & corporate Sound Meditations

take a towel ( or yoga block ) and make a roll about 4 inches high, place it underneath your shoulder blades and lay on your back for five minutes. . Make sure your palms are facing up with arms stretched out in line with your hips away from your body. Take long, deep breaths and lay flat for about 5 minutes. Do this every night at the end of the day. Be mindful of text neck and looking down. To test if your tension is from poor posture , stand against the wall with the heals about an inch away, feet parallel and see if your sacrum touches , the back of your shoulders, and then very back of your head. If that is challneging try to increase week after week laying flat with your arms open from 5-10 - 15 minutes .

Daniel Gilbert
I help my clients to regain Youthful Posture and Vitality utilizing the Rolf Method of Structural Integration.

Deep breathing and meditation exercises can help as they both trigger the shift of your nervous system into a parasympathetic (calm, health inducing) state.
You could also try some gentle necks rolls in a half circle with your chin "scraping" along your chest as you gently reach your opposite shoulder down, breathing deeply through your nose.

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