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Tips and Exercises to ease neck aches and pains when travelling

We have all fallen asleep in an awkward position whilst travelling, be it in a car, train or plane. Here are some tips and exercises to help minimise neck aches and pains when travelling.

Tips for Reducing Neck Pain

  • Carry your personal stuff in a back pack with a waist strap to minimise the strain on your neck from bag straps.
  • Try to limit the amount of time you spend looking down reading, looking at your phone, tablet etc.
  • Make the most of the inflight entertainment screen, and adjust it so that the tops of the screen is level with your eyes if possible.
  • Use a small pillow to fill  the space between your shoulders and your head and to support your neck whilst seated (awake or asleep). Make sure you keep your neck in line with your spine.
  • Try to maintain a good seated posture.
    • You should be able to keep your eyes looking straight ahead.
    • Do n’t drop your head forwards or backwards
    • Try to keep you shoulders back
    • Don’ let your upper back slump.
    • Keep a gentle curve in your lower back, a small cushion between your back and the seat can help to maintain this.
  • Book an appointment with your osteopath to loosen you off and to resolve any preexisting aches and pains before travelling.

Exercises for your neck when travelling

Here are some exercises (from my colleagues at rehabmypatient.com) that I suggest to my patients to help keep them  to help mobilise your neck when travelling.

Neck Retractions Sitting

Sit upright with good posture. Whilst continuing to look forwards gently pull your head back as far as comfortable and down slightly by tucking your chin in. You will feel some gentle tension at the front and back of your neck. This exercise will help your neck and upper back posture.


Neck Rotations Sitting

Sit upright with good posture. Rotate your neck slowly to the left by looking over your left shoulder. Take your neck to a comfortable end of range. Repeat to the right. Make sure you keep your shoulder and back relaxed. This is an excellent exercise to improve rotation and mobility in your neck.


Neck Side-Flexion Sitting

Sit upright with good posture. Ensuring your nose is pointing forwards, bend your neck as if you were taking your left ear towards your left shoulder. Now repeat to the right. Keep the movement gentle and rhythmical. This exercise will help improve mobility to your neck.


Levator Scapulae Stretch

Bend your neck forwards, and then side-bend your neck by taking your left ear towards your left shoulder. Hold on to a chair to make the stretch stronger. This will allow you to feel a stretch at the back and side of your neck. You can make the stretch stronger by assisting with your hand.


Sub-Occipital Stretch

Sit down with good posture, tuck your chin down slightly, and hold your fingers under your skull. Try to elongate your neck and pull your skull upwards with your fingers. You should feel a gentle stretch at the top of your neck under your fingers. Stop immediately if you get any dizziness. Hold the stretch, and relax.


Neck Side Flexion Stretch

Place your hands behind your neck, and gently tilt your neck (moving your ear towards your shoulder). You can lift your chin slightly if you wish. You should feel a stretch on the opposite side.


Neck Semi-Circles

Circle your neck to one side, and then the other side. Move your neck in a semi-circle direction. Don’t worry if you get some crunching or scrunching in the neck, this is normal. You can use this exercise to get your neck more mobile.


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