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How should I do the all-fours rocking stretch exercise for neck pain?

Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy
The all-fours rocking stretch passively restores normal shoulder joint and neck mechanics. It is a deceptively simple yet powerful exercise that yields big results.

Begin in a hands-and-knees position with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure your lower back is flat by drawing in your belly button. Also check that your neck is not arched in extension. If it is, then bring the chin down until you feel that your neck is relaxed and lengthened at the base of the skull. You will need someone to monitor this for you. Your eyes should be gazing directly below your nose, and you should maintain this position throughout the exercise.

Exhale and rock back onto your feet. Feel that the floor is pulling your arms into an overhead position. Allow your shoulders to be pulled into an overhead position while rocking backward. Initially it will feel like your shoulders are excessively shrugged up toward your ears; this is good because one of your problems may be shoulders that are sitting too low or are not elevating properly. Visualize the scapulae (shoulder blades) rotating out. Be sure the back of your neck remains lengthened (especially at the base of the skull) and the space between your ears and shoulders does not shorten or compress during the exercise. Return to the start position after holding for five breaths. Be sure your head maintains its long stretch and does not move back into extension while returning to the start position. Perform 2-5 repetitions.
Fixing You: Neck Pain & Headaches: Self-Treatment for healing Neck pain and headaches due to Bulging Disks, Degenerative Disks, and other diagnoses.

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Fixing You: Neck Pain & Headaches: Self-Treatment for healing Neck pain and headaches due to Bulging Disks, Degenerative Disks, and other diagnoses.

There are two major muscles connecting the shoulder blade to the head and neck. Because the shoulder system isn't working well, continual stress is placed on the head and neck creating...

This exercise is excellent for lengthening chronically structures and the shoulder joint and shoulder joint. The exercise really focuses on lengthening the latissimus dorsi and teres major muscles as well as the shoulder capsule.

Start this exercise in the quadruped position, when hands and knees under directly under the shoulders and hips. Prior to moving, draw-in the abdomen and stabilize the core. Be sure the low back does not have excessive lordosis.  While keeping your hands on the floor, lean back with your hips. Your arms should now be overhead and your biceps should be near your ears. Tuck your chin to your chest. You should feel a stretch in your shoulders. Hold the end position for approximately 20 seconds and repeat 2 times.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.