Neck pain is a global issue. Up to 70% of adults will experience neck pain in their lifetime. In many cases, their discomfort interferes with daily activity and develops into chronic neck pain. If you are experiencing aches and strains in your neck, let’s explore whether or not a neck stretcher could help alleviate your symptoms.
A neck stretcher is a tool which claims to restore the natural curvature of the upper spine; it can reduce pain and pressure on vertebrae.
The neck stretcher can be beneficial for those with forward rounding shoulders — also known as kyphosis, a neck hump or dowager’s hump.
Kyphosis can be associated with lack of mobility, flexibility and decreased lung function.
Exercises to improve your abdominal strength, shoulder flexion and extension can help for long term results.
Be sure to consult a healthcare professional before purchasing and using a neck stretcher.
Why does thoracic kyphosis develop?
Thoracic kyphosis, also known as Dowager's Hump and upper back hump, occurs with excessive curvature in the upper thoracic spine. There are many potential causes of thoracic kyphosis. Poor posture, age, genetics, and spine fractures can all play a role. It is useful to break kyphosis down into its different types.
- Postural kyphosis. The most type of kyphosis, caused by poor posture.
- Scheuermann's kyphosis. When the vertebrae wedge together during growth.
- Congential kyphosis. Present from birth.
Understanding the cause is important in determining the treatment.
Will a neck stretcher help my upper back hump?
Neck stretchers claim to bring relief from tightness by providing support and a gentle stretch and massage for the back of the neck. People with mild postural kyphosis may experience instant relief from using a neck stretcher. It can lengthen out the vertebrae, reducing compression.
To feel lasting effects, it’s advised to use the neck stretcher on a regular basis. However people with severe cases of congenital kyphosis may not experience the same effects. This is due to the severity of the condition which can require surgery in some cases.
Using a neck stretcher should be seen as an ‘add-on’ to a consistent movement practice. A well-rounded movement practice will help to strengthen and lengthen your muscles, improving your posture long term. Whilst you may experience immediate short-term relief, a neck stretcher will not provide miracle results when used alone.
Are neck stretchers safe?
Ensure safety by purchasing a neck stretcher from a trusted professional retailer, who sells equipment designed by healthcare professionals. Read reviews before purchasing, and make sure you are using the neck stretcher correctly by following a step-by-step guide.
Focus on your positioning — the tool should support the natural curvature of the spine without overextending. If you are injured or recovering from surgery, it is advised to avoid using a neck stretcher unless cleared by a medical professional.
Can exercise help my thoracic kyphosis?
Excessive rounding in the shoulders can cause the upper back and neck to become tense. Through exercise, we can work towards optimal posture which helps to open the chest out and naturally set the shoulders back.
When we slump forward, the abdominal muscles no longer have to work to keep you upright. However, when we stand tall, the abdominal muscles are required to support you. Exercises to strengthen your abs are key.
Add our Chest Lift Exercise into your movement routine. Focus on movements which open up the chest and diaphragm. Improving shoulder flexion and back extension will also be beneficial. Remember to start slowly — you can gradually build up to bigger ranges.
Best ways to reduce rounding in the shoulders
Here is a list of possible methods to reduce rounding in the shoulders:
- Work your abs. Improve abdominal strength through exercise.
- Increase flexibility. Improve shoulder flexion through exercise to restore healthy levels of flexibility.
- Open your chest. Work on gentle back extensions to restore mobility and open out the chest.
- Practice perfect posture. Be mindful of your posture. Grow tall from the crown of your head, gently drawing your navel to your spine and widening your collar bones out to each side of the room.
- Add posture aids. Potentially add in tools such as a neck stretcher to provide short term relief.
How do I use a neck stretcher?
Start with using the stretcher for five to ten minutes a day. Always listen to what your body needs. If you need extra support you can put a pillow on the outside of the stretcher.
- Place your neck stretcher on a flat surface.
- Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
- Gently place the stretcher under your neck, positioning it just below the skull.
- Relax the head and the stretcher should support you. Focus on your breathing, helping to calm the nervous system, allowing your body to fully relax.
A neck stretcher (also called a neck traction device or a neck stretching device) may be beneficial as an aid for your physical and mental well-being by providing relief and relaxation. Whilst a neck stretcher may alleviate symptoms it does not act as a cure or target the root cause of the rounding and tightness. Focusing on improving strength, flexibility, and posture through a practice such as pilates can provide long-lasting results.
- Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Heritability of thoracic spine curvature and genetic correlations with other spine traits: The Framingham study.
- Journal of Clinical Medicine. Reduction of thoracic hyper-kyphosis improves short and long term outcomes in patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain. A randomized controlled trial.