Exercises to Loosen Neck Muscles

Studio shot of woman with eyes closed

Tight neck muscles can crop up in response to stress, inactivity or injury. Once your neck muscles tighten up, they can cause pain and a limited range of motion that makes your everyday activities more challenging. Stretching exercises to loosen your neck muscles can help you relax and feel at the top of your game once again.

Chin Tuck

Chin tuck exercises, also called cervical flexion and extension, address tightness in the back of your neck. Remembering to keep your shoulders straight and squared instead of hunched is important. Sit or stand up with your eyes looking straight in front of you. Bending only your neck, tilt your head down in an attempt to touch your chin to your chest. Hold the pose for at least 15 seconds if possible. Bring your head back to the neutral position before tilting your head up to the sky. Hold for another 15 seconds before relaxing. Repeat the entire process five times.

Head Tilts

Tilting your head to the side loosens the lateral muscles in your neck, or the muscles on the sides. Keeping your shoulders relaxed and squared, tilt your head to the left as if you were pressing your left ear into your shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds. Slowly return your head to its original position. Repeat the tilt, this time to the right with your right ear toward the shoulder. Take care not to rotate your head as you perform this exercise.


Neck rotations loosen your cervical spine, which can cause referred pain and stiffness. You do not actually turn your head in a full circle during rotation. Like the head tilts, you work with one side of your head and neck at a time. Turn your head to the left as far as you can without causing pain. Your chin should line up with your left shoulder. Hold for five seconds before turning back to the neutral position. Then rotate your neck to the right so your chin and right shoulder are in alignment. After five seconds, you can relax. Perform rotation up to five times in each direction if you can.

Corner Stretch

Tightness that you feel in the neck sometimes stems from other areas of the body, such as the chest and shoulders. The corner stretch is an exercise that targets all three body parts at once to help you loosen up. Stand with your feet together, facing a corner of a room. Your feet should be 20 to 24 inches away from the corner. Place one forearm on each wall that forms the corner; your elbows will be bent and fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Keeping your elbows at about shoulder level and your back and head straight, lean into the corner. You can safely place your body weight on your forearms. Hold for 30 seconds.