Daily activities like exercising, playing sports, or spending hours at a desk can stress the neck, causing discomfort and pain. Surgery may be necessary for some issues, but trying non-surgical methods usually results in better, long-lasting outcomes and is typically the first line of defense against neck pain. So, what is the fastest way to relieve neck tension and pain?

A qualified physical therapist can assist you in developing a suitable strategy for chronic neck pain characterized by pain lasting more than a few weeks. By following a physical therapy plan customized to your requirements, you can safely build strength and flexibility, reducing the risk of encountering future neck injuries.

Causes of Neck Pain

Poor Posture

Poor posture can affect the neck muscles. People hunching over their computers or slouching in their chairs all day may notice neck tension afterward.

What is the fastest way to relieve neck tension?

Poor posture can make your head lean forward and away from the center of your body, making your neck muscles work extra hard to hold up your head.

Leaning over a computer or looking at your phone makes your head move forward and your neck bend. This bending can stretch the muscles in the back of your neck too much, leading to pain and swelling.

Sleeping In The Wrong Position

Posture influences the body at all times, even during sleep. If you sleep on your stomach, you might rest one side of your face on the pillow, which can stretch the muscles on that side of your neck.

Sleeping with large pillows can elevate your head too high, forcing your neck to bend forward. Staying in this position all night might result in neck tension the next morning.

Repetitive Neck Movements

People who conduct repetitive movements throughout the day can result in repetitive motion disorders.

While these disorders often occur in the wrists, hands, and shoulders, they can also affect the neck.

Without treatment, repetitive motion disorders can result in pain, swelling, and even permanent tissue damage.

Teeth Grinding

Bruxism is when an individual clenches or grinds their teeth while sleeping. Clenching or grinding the teeth puts pressure on the jaw and neck muscles, leading to neck pain, tension, and headaches.


An individual can injure the muscles in their neck if they lift heavy weights, experience whiplash from a car accident, or play impact sports.

These injuries can cause mild-to-severe muscle strains, which might require medical treatment or physical therapy.

Untreated muscle strains can result in persistent neck pain and even permanent damage that lessens the neck’s flexibility and range of motion.


Stress has a tremendous effect on the entire body. Once the brain senses stress, it releases stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine. These hormones increase the blood pressure and heart rate and tighten the muscles.

When an individual experiences stress regularly, their muscles remain tense and contract for longer, resulting in neck and shoulder tension.

These individuals also reported higher stress levels and less physical activity. They rated their health poorly in comparison with the participants who had migraine without tension headaches and neck pain.

If you’re suffering from neck pain and seeking relief, your physical therapist might suggest some exercises.

What Is the Fastest Way to Relieve Neck Tension: Physical Therapy

Here’s what to expect from the two phases of physical therapy: Passive and Active.

Passive Physical Therapy

Passive therapy modalities are typically used immediately before active physical therapy modalities. Passive therapy works on the body without requiring motion. Passive modalities include:

Heat and Cold

Ice or cold packs can reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. Heat packs can increase blood flow and loosen stiffness in your neck. Your doctor might recommend alternating the two methods based on your specific symptoms at any given time.


Massaging the back of the head, nape, and upper shoulder and back can help reduce neck pain and stiffness. Massage loosens muscles and makes it easier to turn the head in either direction, so it’s a good modality to use before physical exercises.


A mild electrical current can be delivered through wires attached topically to the painful area of your neck. These signals can stimulate muscle reactions and help absorption of pain relief creams through the skin. A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, also known as a TENS unit, sends electrical pulses to sensory nerves under your skin. This disrupts and alters pain signals, so your brain receives more pleasurable signals (buzzing or warmth instead of shooting pain.)


There are many effective treatments for neck tension.

A handheld device can relieve pain and relax muscles by sending high-energy sound waves deep into the neck tissues. Your PT will put a cool gel on your neck and then guide the device across the surface of your skin. You’ll feel relaxed and might experience a warm sensation.

Active Therapy

Physical therapy primarily focuses on improving the neck’s strength when treating neck pain. Active exercises work the neck and surrounding muscles, strengthening and increasing flexibility.

Shoulder and Head Rolls

These stretches are a great warm-up to start with before attempting different exercises. Keep the arms relaxed at the sides for a shoulder roll, and lift and roll your shoulders with your head upright. Relax briefly between each roll. Do ten rolls forward and ten back.

Before you try a head roll:

1. Stretch the neck.

2. Ensure the shoulder blades are relaxed and your head isn’t tilted forward but sits directly over the neck.

3. Start by dipping the chin slowly toward the chest, and hold for several breaths (if you cannot dip your chin, or if it results in an increase in pain, stop and consult your doctor).

4. Lift your head, lower your left ear toward the left shoulder, and hold.

5. Repeat this movement on the right side, then perform a similar stretch with your head tilted back.

After you stretch your neck, gently roll your head in sections, leaning it forward or tilting it back to each side, repeating five times for each direction. Be cautious of a complete head roll, as it may stress the neck.

Seated Neck Stretch

Sit upright in the chair with your feet flat on the ground for a seated stretch. Extend your right arm along your right side and place your left hand on your head. Tilt your head to the left, applying pressure using your hand to intensify the stretch gently. Hold for half a minute, then repeat for the right side. You’ll feel this stretch in the levator scapula muscles on the sides of your neck.

Wall Push-Up

This exercise can help strengthen the shoulders and support your neck muscles without leading to as much stress as typical push-ups. Stand facing a wall, with 2-3 feet of space in front of you and your feet shoulder-width apart. Place the hands against the wall, just beneath shoulder level. Begin with straight arms, and bend the elbows slowly to bring the body closer to the wall. Repeat this ten times for 1-2 sets.

Aquatic Exercises

While high-impact sports can be hard on your neck, low-impact sports like walking, or swimming help you avoid strain. If you’ve neck pain, many physical therapists recommend hitting the pool for aerobic exercises to increase blood flow to the neck.

While in the water, you can try neck flexibility stretches such as the “clock” exercise. Repeat the following on the sides:

1. Stand in a lunge position with both of your arms at shoulder height. While the right hand and foot are forward at 12 o’clock, sweep the left hand back to 6 o’clock, following with the body and head. Repeat five times.

2. Keep your left hand sweeping to 6 o’clock while your head moves only to 9 o’clock for five repetitions.

3. And for the last five, your head remains at 12 o’clock while your arm sweeps to 6 o’clock.

Prone Rows

This exercise will strengthen the muscles that pull the shoulder blades together. You’ll want to lie facedown on your bed or similar surface, angled so the face is in a corner, and you can dangle the arms off each side. Row upward, bending the elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together without moving the head. Try about 20 repetitions for 1-2 sets. You can incorporate light weights into this exercise if it’s too easy.

Other Exercises

Your physical therapy team may also recommend core exercises and aerobic activity if indicated. Additionally, they may suggest upper body motions to help loosen muscle groups connected to your neck.

A complete physical therapy session should take at least 45 minutes. You can resume your day-to-day activities with no downtime when you’re done.

Exercises to Avoid

Some exercises can worsen neck pain.

While adding these exercises to your regime, you should avoid workouts that impede your progress. Do not do sit-ups or crunches, as these can strain the neck vertebrae. In weightlifting, the military press and lat pulldown put pressure on your vertebrae and should be avoided.

The five exercises above can kickstart the road to recovery, although, for best results, we suggest working with a physical therapist. If these exercises do not relieve or cause pain that shoots into your arms or shoulders, contact a doctor as soon as possible.

What Does Physical Therapy Do for Neck Pain

Current studies and major research have found that physical therapy helps reduce neck pain, improve muscle strength, and prevent further injury. This is evidenced by thousands of people reporting immediate and long-term relief after receiving physical therapy treatment. The effectiveness of physical therapy is even further increased when it extends to other modes of treatment.

For example, frozen shoulder treatment is also used if neck pain originates from a frozen shoulder. Physical therapists know very well that sometimes the cause of the pain is outside of the neck; thus, treatment extends beyond the neck.

Finding The Right Physical Therapists

Now that you understand how physical therapy can provide effective neck pain relief, you might be looking for a physical therapist. You won’t regret choosing us here at Precision Sports Physical Therapy to save you time, energy, and money.

Our physical therapists have the right knowledge, skills, and experience to provide excellent healthcare solutions. They offer neck pain treatment, manual lymphatic drainage, sports and therapeutic massage, and more. Please reach out to us today!

Precision Sports Physical Therapy is committed to helping you increase your quality of life by being the best version of yourself.


Injury Recovery

Manual Therapy

Strength And Conditioning

Functional Movement Screening

Sports-Specific-Rehab and Training

Return to Sports Training

Precision Sports Physical Therapy is committed to helping you increase your quality of life by being the best version of yourself.


Injury Recovery

Manual Therapy

Strength And Conditioning

Functional Movement Screening

Sports-Specific-Rehab and Training

Return to Sports Training