Physical Therapy for a Stiff Neck – Ask Doctor Jo

hey everybody it’s Doctor Jo and Mr. Bear, and today we’re gonna show you physical therapy exercises for neck stiffness. so let’s get started. you like my body shaper tank top? the folks at MD sent it to me to wear today, and if you’re interested in purchasing one click on the link up there. so let’s get on to the neck stiffness. my favorite exercise or stretch for neck stiffness is a chin tuck. chin tucks are easy to do. you can do them anywhere, and they really help reset all the muscles in your neck. so if you’ve got some tightness, if you’ve got some stiffness, this is a great one. so chin tucks aren’t tucking down, but you’re actually tucking your chin in. so the key is to keep your chin in the neutral position. so you’re not tucking in like this, and you’re not tucking in like this, but you’re keeping it neutral right there. and you’re just tucking it in that way. so you’re moving your head back so you have lots of little Chins right there. and you want to hold it for about 3 to 5 seconds, and then relax. just doing about 5 of those. if you want to use your finger there is a little target, I like that sometimes because it shows that you’re making progress. just leave your finger in one spot, tuck it in, hold that for about three to five seconds, and then when you relax, you should have a little bit of space in between. that just means it’s resetting those muscles, getting that head back into a neutral position, getting some of that stiffness out of there. so I really really like that. and again hold it three to five seconds, just do them about five times couple times a day. the next one I really like is using a towel to help stretch your neck and get that stiffness and tightness out. this is called snags. it’s a particular technique it stands for something really long, but what I like to do is use the towel because a lot of times the towel can help hold the segments. so like if I’m holding here and turning then I’m getting that extra stretch in there to get that tightness out. so with this one the snag, what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna grab the towel with your opposite hand here, and you’re gonna stabilize that towel right there, or hold it in one spot so that holds the vertebrae there so you can get the stretch a little bit higher. then you’re gonna grab the other hand making sure you’re not choking yourself, but bring it up and over your ears. so this time you’re gonna kind of pull up and over. so you’re not just pulling across, that’s that’s going into choking yourself a little bit, but up and over. but if you hold the towel kind of right over your ear you get a good pull. so I’m pulling down with this hand and up and across with this hand. so I’m getting a nice good stretch in there. and so this one since it’s a full stretch I’m gonna hold it for 30 seconds and then after that 30 seconds, if you want to switch sides, you can. so now I’m holding it with this one right over here and then grabbing this one and coming up and over. so again kind of up where your ear is, not on your neck, but up and over and then pull it down with this one, and up and over with that one. again holding that stretch for 30 seconds and then doing it three on each side. if you don’t have time for three you can do two on each side, but the best is doing it three times on each side for 30 seconds a couple times a day. so you can also use the towel for some chin tucks, and then some movements. so once you get the chin tuck down, then what the towel does is, again each segment of your spine if you want to kind of stabilize this one with the towel then you’re moving the other one. so it’s almost like a mobilization kind of movement and sometimes this is really good to do to help get that stiffness and tightness out of there. it’s sometimes hard to do on your own but the towel really helps you do it. this is what if you’re getting manual work done by a therapist they would, they would kind of hold one spot with one hand and do it with the other, but you can’t really do that yourself. so for this one you’re just going to kind of give that towel on the spot right here, and then you’re gonna do a chin tuck. and then a little bit of an extension with your neck while you’re doing it. so this is a combination move. what I want to do with the towel is kind of push it down and forward. that’s the motion that I want to push it into so I’m doing like that to get that segment stabilized and then I’m tucking in my chin and going back in to extension. so you can see it’s that combination move. sometimes it’s hard to get down this one, you don’t have to hold as long you can just do it a smooth continuous motion, but if you want to hold the motion or the movement for a little bit, you can hold that three to five, but sometimes this one since it’s a little bit more complicated, it’s either easier just to do kind of that smooth motion without holding. so I’m going pushing down, now going into that chin tuck, looking up, coming back in, and then releasing. so again if I wanted to hold it I’d do that chin tuck look back hold it for about three to five seconds, come back in, and relax. if any of these are painful don’t do it. when you’re mobilizing things you really need to make sure that you don’t have something where you shouldn’t be mobilizing that spine. so if it hurts in any way, hold off and check in with your doctor or your physical therapist. so the next one that you can do is same kind of motion with the chin tucks, except now you’re just going to do some turns with it. so this time it’s not necessarily the up and over like the snags, but you’re just going to do that same kind of motion where you’re tucking in the chin. now this time I’m stabilizing with this side and then I’m just gonna help do the stretch and over while I’m doing that chin tuck. so I’m gonna stabilize here, go into the chin tuck, and then just get that turn. and I don’t know if you heard that at all, but for that I got a little little pop. a little adjustment in my neck. and as long as it’s not painful, that’s fine. so again this one’s just a little bit more continuous movement to get that mobilization in there. so I’m gonna do the other way so you can see it. so now I’m kind of stabilizing with this side. I’m tucking in my chin, and then I’m using that towel just to help get that little bit of a turn, little pause, come back in, and relax, and reset myself. so again you have to work a little bit at this to get the movement. sometimes it’s hard to do all those combinations, but if you can get it right you’re really going to get that stiffness out of there. so it works really really well. so the next one is going to just be a levator scapulae stretch, and that’s those muscles that come down to that shoulder blade and then all the way up in your neck. those are ones that hold a lot of stress, hold a lot of stiffness. when we’re working all day, especially if we’re like on the computer if we’re driving, we can’t hold up our shoulders like this, and that gets a lot of tightness in there, and then that’s that muscle right there that levator SCAP really gets tight. sometimes it can cause headaches. sometimes it can just cause just pain all in that upper neck, back area, and cause some stiffness. so it’s really good to stretch out, and it’s pretty easy to stretch it as well. so the side that you want to stretch, if I’m stretching my left side, I’m going to take my left hand and just kind of put it on the back. and I’m going in that downward position with my elbow going up. what that does is that pushes that shoulder blade down to kind of hold it and stabilize it because since that muscles connected to that shoulder blade, you want to hold it down to get the best stretch. so if this is painful, you don’t have to do it, but that’s the best way you’re gonna get the stretch. then you want to take your other hand and place it kind of behind your head, and you’re gonna pull down and towards the opposite knee. so you’re not going straight down. you’re not going out to the side, but almost not quite a 45 degree angle, but you’re taking your head towards that opposite knee. so I’m just going up with my elbow on this side, and then pulling down and across. and you should feel that stretch right in through there. and it should be a good kind of hurt so good feeling, but it shouldn’t be painful at all. so again holding that for 30 seconds, doing that three times. probably on each side if you’ve got just some general neck stiffness, and you can do that a couple times a day. so I’ll do the other side holding this one up with my elbow hand behind my head, pulling down towards the opposite side. so again really holding it for thirty Seconds, get that good stretch in there. I like to alternate back and forth. you don’t have to, you can do them all on one side, all on the other side, but I feel like when you alternate back and forth, you give the muscle a little time to relax and reset. and then the last one is going to be an upper trap stretch which is the big muscle over all of those. that’s another one that holds a lot of stress and tightness, stiffness, and since it’s so big up there, when it is tight your neck can be really really stiff. so this time what you want to do is the side that you want to stretch, you’re going to kind of sit on the hand. and if that’s uncomfortable to sit on it, you can just take your fists and kind of push downwards, but again this is to hold that shoulder down. to get the best stretch, you don’t have to do this part, but it’s really going to get a better stretch because then when you go into the stretch, your shoulders not going to come up. so this time you really are just going pulling almost your ear towards the shoulder. so you’re really just going to go to the side your hand is going to come up and over, and then just gently pull over to the side to get that stretch. so this time you should kind of feel it through here. some people still do feel it in the back a little bit, but usually it’s right through here. still holding that stretch for 30 seconds, doing that three times on each side. so sitting on the hand over there, just up and over getting that nice gentle pull in there. so those are your physical therapy exercises for neck stiffness. if you’re interested in purchasing the MD tank-top body shaper, make sure you click on the link up there, and don’t forget to subscribe by clicking down there. and remember be safe, have fun, and I hope you feel better soon.


  1. I awake middle of the night with stiff neck
    and have done result is good
    thank you so much
    mam could you please,
    thoracic scoliosis exercises and thoracic spine flexion stretching

  2. I keep learning the same lesson! When I have issues, check your site first. You always seem to have more info on what to do and why. Thanks. I'll work on my stiff neck and see what happens. Your hints and explanations are excellent.

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