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The Best Exercises for Neck Pain

Our bodies are meant to move. One of the biggest contributors to musculoskeletal pain generally is inactivity. When you consider our evolutionary past, and how we live currently. It’s no wonder many of us have an abundance of aches and pains. 

And yet, many of us ignore these or seek medical treatments or massages or heat packs, all only providing short term relief at best. At the centre of this is a mistaken notion, that many of us hold. A notion of seeing the body as a machine, that slowly breaks down over time and requires intermittent “check-ups” and “repairs” to suspend the inevitable. 

This notion is completely incorrect. Our bodies are capable of incredible things – rather than being machines, they’re more like trees that adapt and grow through and around the many obstacles they face, just take the image below for example.

A key process behind the plasticity and adaptability of our bodies is the process of hormesis. Hormesis is commonly defined as a beneficial or stimulatory effect caused by exposure to low doses of an agent known to be toxic at higher doses. Many of the things that keep us healthy are due to the effect of hormesis. In fact, many fruits and vegetables exert a positive effect on the body from us reacting to the antioxidants within them. 

Without regular movement – particularly aerobic and resistance exercise, we lose our adaptability and optimal functioning. A picture paints a thousand words they say – this picture below tells the tale. 

As you can see – sedentary behaviours have a large cost down the line, and staying active is paramount. This is why exercise in general for neck pain is important. If the main role of our muscles is to produce and withstand force, and staying active prevents muscle atrophy, one can see how keeping the muscles of the neck and arms active can help in preventing force and strain from overly affecting the joints and nerves in the neck. 

We know from good quality research that targeted strength training in the neck and arms reduces pain in people with acute neck pain and prevents subsequent neck pain episodes. But it can be overwhelming with the plethora of exercises out there to know which one is best. That’s why the team at 8th ave physio have collaborated and agreed on our two favourite exercises that we feel are best for managing and preventing neck pain:


  • The Upright Row

The Upright row can be done with either dumbbells or a resistance band (as pictured above). Initially, it’s best to find a level of resistance that you can do 12-15x repetitions with for 2x sets. 

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  • The Standing or Seated Row 

The standing or seated row requires either a cable or dedicated row machine in the gym or can be done at home as pictured above using a resistance band. As with the upright row – it is best, to begin with, a level of resistance that you can do 12-15x repetitions with for 2x sets.

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These exercises are recommended to be done between 4-5 times a week at the recommended two sets of 12-15x repetitions per day. You can either do two days on, then a rest day, or do five days straight with the weekend off. After 3-5 weeks – try a thicker resistance band or heavier weight and reduce the repetitions per set to 8-10 repetitions.


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