What to Do for Neck and Shoulder Pain

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
April 16, 2018

If you’re wondering what to do for neck and shoulder pain, the good news is that you may be fine with simple exercises. Here's what else you should know about neck and shoulder pain.

The neck and shoulders bear much of our stress, especially while sitting. Nearly everyone develops ways of moving that create unnecessary tension. Over time, that tension can turn into pain.

But if you free up tension, you may notice that you stand straighter and breathe more deeply. Neck and shoulder pain are your body’s way of telling you to relax. Even a stiff neck and sharp, shooting pains in your neck tend to indicate a minor problem, says Paul Ingraham, a masseuse who writes for


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The movements below are recommended by a school called Feldenkrais. The main point: they’re simple and slow and shouldn’t be painful. Notice if you’re holding your breath and allow yourself to breathe. Rest as often as you like. If you feel any pain, dial back and decrease the range of your movement until the pain goes away.

Use a timer. The goal is to spend an entire minute on each exercise, moving as slowly as possible.

Loosen up your neck

Start by sitting comfortably in a straight-backed chair. You can also do these standing up, if you need to.

1. Lift your right shoulder up and down, as slowly as possible. That’s it. Keep repeating the movement for a minute. Now do the other shoulder, for a minute.

2. Lower your right ear to your shoulder — again, slowly and without pain. If you can’t get all the way down, that’s okay. Bring your head back up to the center. Keep doing this for a minute. Then switch to bringing your left ear to your left shoulder.

3. This time you’ll alternate step 1 and step 2. Lower your right ear to your shoulder, bring it back up, then lift your right shoulder. Do this for a minute. Repeat on the left side.


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March 27, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN