Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

 By Kathy Stevens

Yes, there are plenty of stretching and strengthening exercises that help to maintain good posture -- key in keeping pain, tightness, and injury at bay. The following stretching exercises help release tension. To make the most of each stretch, hold each position for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat each one two or three times.

*Slowly bend your head down and up, looking down at your chest, then up to the ceiling.

*Slowly bend your head side to side as though you are going to touch your ear to each shoulder, while keeping your shoulders down.

*Slowly rotate your head from side to side as though you are going to look over each shoulder.

*Interlace your fingers behind your head and press your elbows toward the wall behind you.

The following strengthening exercises help improve neck and back posture. Breathe deeply as you hold each position for five to 10 seconds and repeat each one 10 to 20 times.

*Press your forehead into your palms slowly, while not allowing your hands to move forward.

*Place your right hand against the right side of your head. Slowly push your head into your hand, using the neck muscles to combat your hand's resistance.

*Repeat on the left side.

*Place both hands against the back of your head. Try to push your head back, while resisting your head's movement with your hands.

*Sit tall with your arms out to the sides and with your elbows bent at right angles (as though you were framing your head). Squeeze shoulder blades together, and relax.

Do these exercises every hour at your desk, or, at the very least, several times a week, keeping yourself from becoming one of many Americans who suffer from neck and upper back tension. If you continue to experience severe or chronic pain, see your doctor before risking permanent damage to your muscles or nerves. 2000 Healtheon/WebMD. All rights reserved.