Action Steps To Relieve Neck & Shoulder Tension


If you haven’t read part one yet start here  – you’ll need to know about optimal head and neck positioning to get the full benefit of what is covered in this post.

To prevent the scrunched and pain-filled neck that comes with modern-day living, your neck muscles need to be stronger and better organized.

To clarify what I mean by “neck strength”: it’s not your high school gym teacher enforcing use of the “neck machine” in the weight room.

Neck strength can mean using weighted implements to work the neck flexors and extensors, but the route you’re going to take to strengthen your neck is far more approachable (and easier to include in your training).

And let’s clarify what “better organized” means too, since the organization you’re familiar with might be more in the vein of picturing your closet, with all of your clothes hanging on hangers, organized by color and by season.

Picture instead, all of your neck muscles, and every muscle surrounding them – shoulder and upper back muscles, arm muscles, torso muscles – working together like members of an orchestra playing a piece of music.

Everybody has to start playing at the right time, or else all you hear is noise instead of harmony.

Disharmony, And How To Start Restoring It

Does it always feel like the same area in your neck gets stiff?

If you get a kink in your neck, does it always happen on the same side?

These can be indicators that you’re relying on one area to do the lions’ share of the work for stabilizing your neck.

This can also hint that one part of the neck muscle complex is weaker.

Your neck can also start barking at you because of the movement patterns you perform during your daily life, repeating the same movements over and over again, to the detriment of your soft and hard tissue in your neck.

The key is to start restoring harmony in your neck by changing the input, and thus, reaping the benefit of a new and better output.

Here are two ways you can start doing that – 

1) Awareness Of How You Hold Your Head During The Exercises You Already Do

First, make sure you’re using the drawing-back head position covered in part one of this series. You’d be surprised how many common exercises allow for a sub-optimal neck and head position when you’re not paying attention.

Specifically, old favorites like planks, rows, deadlifts, and squats are all culprits you need to keep an eye on when it comes to neck and head position.

Correct head position for strong neck and posture during planks –

Strong Plank Position


Incorrect head position during planks –

incorrect plank
This positional awareness of your head during exercise transfers from planks, over to weightlifting movements, to cardiovascular activity, and even to yoga.

Notice your head position and draw it into better alignment to reap the benefit in your training.

The next way to start restoring your neck function and strength is…

2) Teach your body to stabilize itself better

So many mobility issues stem from the fact that the body isn’t stable enough to allow your joints to access their potential mobility.

There are a myriad of mobility drills you can do to start changing your body’s stability and mobility levels. Those are in a pool we’ll dive into another time though. Today, I want to tell you about one of my favorite exercises that helps you develop more stability in your torso. It also serves to strengthen the musculature around your torso, and can helps to make your neck and shoulders more stable and strong as well!

This all-around awesome drill is called the Pallof Press. Watch the video to learn how to do it!

 The Future Of Your Neck Pain


Neck pain disrupts life, and you don’t have to live with that.

When your neck isn’t hurting, you can focus your attention elsewhere – like on your sports and hobbies, your family, or that book you’ve been wanting to dive into but you couldn’t find a comfortable position to rest your head.

To dig in much deeper than I can here in a quick blog post, attend my Fit For Real Life Online Workshop and learn everything you need to know to get rid of your neck and shoulder tension – for good. Click the image below to get the workshop.

kiss neck and shoulder tension goodbye

13 thoughts on “Action Steps To Relieve Neck & Shoulder Tension

  1. Megan M says:

    OMG THANK YOU! This post has been a Godsend so I had to personally say thank you! I’ve had bad neck and shoulder tension since high school – Literally for almost 20 years! I am totally the person always digging into my muscles and tugging on my neck trying to get a deep enough stretch to find some relief. This post was SO helpful. I haven’t even finished reading part 2 or watching all the videos yet, but I have been making the “Dot the i with your head” thing my mantra for the past two days and it’s been so helpful. I had the best yoga class ever today because I was really conscious of how I was positioning my head/neck, and poses that previously gave me so much shoulder tension felt so much more comfortable. Can’t believe the solution was something so simple! For years I’ve been trying to focus on not holding my shoulders tense or scrunching them up while I sleep…And realize now the issue is more with my neck and sleeping with my head curled forward. I’m seriously so glad I found this post and sincerely thank you!!

    1. Hi Megan!
      I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed this post! It’s amazing what a little awareness and a few good cues for the body can do, huh? 🙂

  2. Dibben says:

    R u am Alexander teacher, normally there are the ones who give particular attention to the head and spine relationship.

    1. I am not, but from what I know of the Alexander method, it seems inline with what I know and teach!

  3. jessica says:

    Hi there. Im a busy mum of 4 beautiful girls aged 12, 10, 10, and 2. I love my life, but trying to look after my kids and care for my family has caused me to start carrying so much tension in my neck. Most recently, its been causing me terrible headaches and the urge to “pop” my neck. My little brother is going to school for massage therapy and when he looked at my neck he was in awe, he said the muscles were insanely bulged and knotted, and he did some work on my neck and shoulders that really helped, but within days I was tense again. Tonight I decided to search the internet for solutions and found this site. I changed my posture, and noticed improvement and relief before I had even finished reading the first page. Thank you for taking the time to explain all this. I never understood why stretching didnt help long term.

    1. You’re so welcome Jessica!

  4. Robbie Gardner says:

    Wonderful advice

  5. Navreet says:

    This was the most useful list of things I have read. I am a student in India and have to put in long hours at the study table. Thank you.

    1. You’re most welcome!

  6. Debbie Quinton says:

    HI Katie!

    I am hard of hearing and have major neck and shoulder problems. Ive been going to chiropractors, physiotherapy and massages, it still does not always help. I am wondering if there are visual workouts I can do and read what I’m supposed to do? Please let me know! I sure appreciate it! THANK YOU!!!!

    1. Hi Debbie, You may want to attend my free workshop on neck and shoulder tension! I teach everything you need to know and do to get rid of your neck and shoulder pain. It’s all the stuff I’ve taught my clients over the years, plus a bunch of visuals with drills and pictures for you to follow along with. You can learn more here:

  7. Pamela Martin says:

    Hi Kate – I’ve been doing the plank wrongly for ages- dipping my head down!! No wonder I was getting neck pain! I’m so glad I read your advice!

  8. Christian says:

    I am 21 with two beautiful children. I’ve done everything to help my back neck and shoulders for 4 years and counting. I haven’t been the same ever since my football injury my senior year. You’ve given me the knowledge to live a real life again. You are a miracle worker everyday in my living. I have my life back, I was able to play with my children without excruciating pain for the first time 3 days ago. I cannot come close to explain all you have helped me with in everyday life. Thank you for not for the hope of relief, but for the consistent relief you provide for everyone. Don’t ever stop with your impact on the world. God bless you, Kate.

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