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These exercises help for neck pain

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

A recent study by researchers in Finland has shown that an exercise programme consisting of specific stretching and strengthening exercises can help decrease neck pain. The researchers wanted to know whether exercise could help office workers with neck pain who spend at least six hours a day at their desk and who suffered from non-specific neck pain or neck pain that was not caused by serious injury.

These exercises reduce neck pain.

They recruited:

  • Sedentary office workers who spent at least 6 hours per day sitting

  • Women and men between 30–50 years of age

  • Who experienced pain intermittently in the neck of at least moderate intensity ( at least 3/10)

  • Who had had at least two episodes of neck pain in the past year

They excluded:

  • People who reported chronic neck pain which they defined as continuous pain over 12 months

  • People who had suffered serious former injury in the neck (fracture, surgery, whiplash, protruded disc etc.)

The neck exercise programme

Participants had to perform the exercise programme twice a week for 10 weeks (20 sessions). Each session lasted about 1 hour and was performed under supervision of a personal instructor.

The programme consisted of:

  • A 10 min warm-up using a cross trainer

  • 10 flexibility exercises (see picture 1 below)

  • 4 strength and 5 core exercises (see picture 2 below)

  • A 10 minute cool down with some stretches

  • They focussed on keeping good body alignment of the whole body throughout the exercises and incorporated breathing exercises into the execution.

The main aims of the programme were to:

  • improve body posture

  • enhance movement control of shoulder-neck, lumbar and pelvic areas

  • enhance stability of shoulder-neck, lumbar and pelvic areas

  • increase flexibility of neck/shoulder area

  • increase range of motion of thoracic spine with main emphasis on rotation

  • increase muscular strength and/or endurance of upper-body, trunk and lower extremities

10 Stretching exercises that help neck pain.

4 strengthening exercises that help neck pain.


They found the training programme reduced the intensity, frequency and strain in the neck and shoulders of the participants.

A few important points

The programme did not focus on just the neck and shoulder girdle. It included exercises that strengthened the rest of the body. Your neck and shoulder girdle cannot sit in a good posture if the foundation lower down is weak.

The exercises do resemble Pilates type exercises, but you can apply the principles to nearly any type of exercise.

They did the exercises under the guidance of a personal trainer for 10 weeks. It is really useful to get some experienced advice/supervision when you start exercising as it is not always easy to maintain good form.

Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at SIP online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn or ReasearchGate


Suni JH, Rinne M, Tokola K, et al. Effectiveness of a standardised exercise programme for recurrent neck and low back pain: a multicentre, randomised, two-arm, parallel group trial across 34 fitness clubs in Finland. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine 2017;3:e000233. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2017-000233


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