Back & Neck Stretches

We spend most of our days doing repetitive exercises such as sitting at a desk, driving, carrying a baby etc. This makes the muscles we use repetitively stronger and tighter than the other muscles in our body. Stretching is vital to reduce the pain caused by these repetitive movements as it relaxes muscles which have become tight from over use. Stretching also gives the muscles we don’t use often a chance to work properly by releasing the tight opposing muscles, giving the body a more balanced posture.

Thoracic Extension with towel and Pectoralis stretch

Thoracic Extension with towel and Pectoralis stretchThoracic Extension with towel and Pectoralis stretch

This stretch is a great way to ease your upper back from stiffness and pain. It also helps reduce back pain by allowing you to sit up straighter by lengthening the muscle which cause hunching. Benefits : Desk workers, taxi drivers, trades men, mothers, sporting athletes and most everyday people.

    • Lying on a flat surface, place a rolled up towel under thoracic spine (cross ways) to where you feel is most stiff. Place a pillow under head and neck for support and bring arms out to the side until you feel a stretch through your pectoralis muscles / chest.
    • Your will feel extension through your spine where the towel is sitting allowing pectoralis muscles to stretch out.
    • Hold for 20 – 30 seconds. Move the arms above your head, beside your ears to stretch further.

Neck Stretch – Levator Scapulae & Upper Trapezius

Neck stretchNeck stretch

Levator Scapular is known as the “devil muscle” to most desk workers as it is often put under a lot of tension in those who carry a chin poke posture (ears in front of shoulders) from long hours spent sitting at a desk. So if your shoulders roll forward, chances are your Levator scapular will be under tension so give this stretch a try. Great for headache suffers, breast feeding or bottle feeding mothers, hairdressers, desk workers, school children or uni students.
Sit up straight with chest lifted and shoulders relaxed

  • Hold one arm down by your side
  • Then in combination:
    • Drop the chin toward the chest
    • Use your hand to gently grasp your head and pull it toward your arm pit opposite to the arm relaxed by your side

Variation – stretch your ear straight down towards your shoulder to feel the stretch through the side of the neck.

Piriformis, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius stretch

Piriformis, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius stretch

Useful for: Gym junkies, runners, people who suffer from back, hip or sciatic like pain. Women who sit with legs crossed, give this stretch a try.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent
  • Bring one ankle over so that is rests on the opposite knee
  • With both hands reach through and around the thigh that the ankle is resting on and pull thigh towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your buttocks.
  • Hold this position for 20 -30 seconds and repeat to opposite leg.

Latissimus Dorsi

Latissimus Dorsi

Latissimus Dorsi is a great stretch for swimmers, boxers, runners, rowers, if your gluteal muscles are weak you may find your lats to be tight as this muscle will compensate for gluteal weakness on the opposite side of the tight lat muscle.

How do you know if your gluts are not firing correctly? Do your hips waddle when you walk; do u have a weak core? Lack of tone in the buttock? do you suffer from re-occurring back pain? Then you may need to work on your core and glut stability to avoid your hamstrings, lats, and hip flexors from over working.

  • Standing, cross one foot behind the other.
  • With your arm above your head reach towards the side of your back foot.
  • Hold stretch for 20 – 30 seconds. Repeat to opposite side.

Calf Muscle Stretch

Calf Muscle Stretch

Calf stretch – great for if you stand on your feet all day, have lack of circulation through the legs, athletes, cyclists. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis this stretch will greatly benefit you.

  • Stand with one forward and one leg back. Bend front leg at the knee and lean into front leg keeping back leg straight and both heels on the floor.
  • You will feel a stretch in the calf of the back leg.
  • Hold for 20 – 30 seconds. Repeat to other side.



Will benefit: Those who sit for long periods of a time, this stretch is a great way to increase flexibility. Back pain suffers – your hamstrings often will pull down on the pelvis and sacrum. Standing all day with bad posture – not engaging you core and locking your knees. Trades men who lift or squat all day.

  • Proximal Fibres: Lying on your back, lift leg and place a towel under the foot, using the towel pull it towards you head keeping your knee straight until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings.
  • Distal Fibres: Bend knee at 90 degrees and continue to pull towel towards head until you feel a stretch.
  • Hold stretch for 20 – 30 seconds. Repeat to other leg.

Psoas/ Hip Flexors

Psoas or Hip Flexors

Psoas and hip flexors – great if you have an increased lumbar lordosis (curve in the lower back) and suffer from back pain, runners, an anterior tilted pelvis (buttock sticking out and up high due to your forward tilted pelvis), poor posture where you don’t engage your core, standing or sitting for long periods of time.

  • Kneeling, bring one leg forward so that foot is in front of the knee
  • Lean into front leg, with opposite arm lift over head towards that side until you feel a stretch in your hip flexor.
  • Hold for 20 – 30 seconds. Repeat to opposite side.

These stretches and information were provided by  Musculoskeletal Therapist & Remedial Massage Therapist Claire Winter. Claire works from Vibe Natural Health in Brisbane. Claire is pictured in the stretches. For more information on how Musculoskeletal Therapy can help your posture and reduce your pain or to book an appointment with Claire click here.

One Reply to “Back & Neck Stretches”

  1. Therapeutic massage also encourages blood flow to the affected muscles, which can bring increase oxygen and nutrients. All of this activity reduces swelling and stiffness and increases flexibility to help eliminate pain. Your muscles might hurt after doing stretching so therapeutic massage will be helpful.

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