PNF Neck Stretch (Massage Monday #507)

This week I’m going to show you a simple neck stretch and how you can increase it and increase the range of motion using PNF neck stretch techniques and some others.

PNF stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. PNF stretch kind of tricks the sensors in your muscles called muscle spindle and a sensor in tendon called Golgi Tendon Organ aka GTO. These sensors are monitoring a change in muscle tension and length. When the muscle is stretched too far, the muscle spindle tells the Central Nervous System in the spinal cord. In response, if necessary Central Nervous System sends the signal to contract the reporting muscle to avoid over-stretching and injury. So this is the protective mechanism.

GTO in the tendon also senses muscle lengthening and contraction. When the muscle you want to stretch is contracted for a certain period of time, it reduces the muscle spindle activity. If I may personify the muscle spindle sensor, it becomes less complainy to Central Nervous System about being stretched too much. Thanks to GTO. So you can take an advantage of this quiet moment by muscle spindle to stretch the muscle little more than you thought you could or your muscle thought it could.

Anyway, PNF stretch is said to be the most effective way to increase flexibility and range of motion.

I’ve read it takes 5 to 15 seconds for the pre-stretch contraction to quiet down the muscle spindle activity so I’m going to use 7 seconds for pre-stretch contraction.

Some cautions before you begin the stretch.

  • Warm up the area first before you stretch. You do not want to stretch cold muscles. If your hands are hot like mine you can use your hands on the muscles you want to stretch but if not you can warm up the area with a steamed towel or something.
  • Keep the stretching tension at about 5 out of 10 on the scale, so 50%. Don’t push yourself. If you over-do it, you will have soft tissue injuries. Remember to be nice with your stretching and always listen to your body.
  • Do not do these stretches if you already have any injuries. Or if you have medical conditions please consult with your doctor first.

We will be stretching the neck in 10 directions. Right, left, back, front, and 45 degrees in between. So 45 degrees in the front right, front left, back right, and back left. And right and left. I will repeat each stretch twice. You are welcome to stretch along with me.

When I say activated or engaged, it means contracted.

Let’s start with the back of the neck.

Put your head down forward until it naturally stops. Remember this position for a future reference. Weave your fingers and place it behind your head. Instead of pressing down, press your head into your weaved hands as your hands resist and hold for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Then gently press the head forward with your hands and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Again, press your head into your hands for 7 seconds so the back of the neck is activated. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently press the head forward and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. You will probably notice your head is lower than the beginning position.

Put your head backward until it naturally stops. Put your hand or hands on your forehead and press your head into your hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently press the forehead and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Again, press your head into your hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently press the forehead to assist the stretch backward for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Tilt your head to the left until it naturally stops. Place your left hand above the right ear. Remember this position. Press your head into the left hand so the right neck muscles are activated and hold for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently pull the head to the left side with your left hand and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Again, press your head into the left hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. And gently pull the head to assist the stretch to the left for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Here’s a bonus for this stretch. This is nothing to do with PNF. Reach for the floor with the right palm which will drop the right shoulder to increase the stretch.

Here’s a bonus #2. During the lockdown I took several Japanese courses via Zoom and I learned this in one of them. To increase the side neck stretch, stick your tongue out downward, and exhale. It’s probably not something you want to do in public but it’s effective isn’t it?

Let’s do the other side. Tilt your head to the right until it naturally stops. Place your right hand above the left ear and press your head into your right hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently pull the head to the right side for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Repeat by pressing your head into your right hand so the left side of the neck is engaged and hold for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. And gently pull the head to the right for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Here’s a bonus. Reach for the floor with your palm to drop the left shoulder. And stick your tongue out and reach for the floor with your tongue too. Take a deep breath and exhale.

Let’s do 45 degrees in the front.

Bring your chin to your left arm pit until it naturally stops. Put your left hand on your head and press your head into your hand first for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently pull the head down 45 degrees to the left and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Press your head into your left hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Again, gently pull the head down 45 degrees for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Here’s a bonus that’s nothing to do with PNF. As you pull your head down, extend your right arm upward. In this stretch, you are stretching the muscle called lavator scapulae that attaches to the inner upper corner of the shoulder blade. As you can see, when you raise your arm, the shoulder blade rotates dropping the inner upper corner, therefore extending the levator muscles little bit more.

Bring your chin to your right arm pit until it naturally stops. Put your right hand on your head and press your head into your hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently pull the head down 45 degrees to the right and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Press your head into your right hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Again, gently pull the head down 45 degrees for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. You can also raise your left arm for added stretch.

Look back behind your shoulder on your right and lift your head up toward the ceiling to stretch the front neck muscle called sternocleidomastoid. When you look up, look up with the head. Be careful not to look up only with your eyes to create wrinkles on your forehead. Put your left hand on the right side of your forehead and press your head into your hand. Hold for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently pull the head back 45 degrees to the left and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Press your head into your left hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Again, gently pull the head back 45 degrees for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Here’s a bonus tip. Sternocleidomastoid is this ropy muscle that starts from the sternum and clavicle or collar bone and inserts at the mastoid process behind the ear. So hold the origin by hooking your fingers at the inner end of the clavicle and pull down gently as you pull the forehead diagonally backward with the other hand.

Look back behind your shoulder on your left and lift your head up toward the ceiling. Put your right hand on the left side of your forehead and press your head into your hand. Hold for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently pull the head back 45 degrees to the right and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Press your head into your right hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Again, gently pull the head back 45 degrees for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

To increase the stretch, hook the fingers on the clavicle by the sternum and gently pull down as you pull your head backward diagonally with the other hand.

Turn to your left. Place your right hand on the right temple and press your head into your hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently press your hand to assist the stretch and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Again, press your head into your hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently press with your hand and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Here’s the last one. Turn to your right. Place your left hand on the left temple and press your head into your hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently press to assist the stretch and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Again, press your head into your hand for 7 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Gently press with your hand and hold for 10 seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Good job!

As long as you know how to contract certain muscle, you can use this PNF stretch technique to stretch other muscles in your body to increase the flexibility and range of motion.

I would be very impressed if you stretched along with me in this long video. Here’s a fist bump.

Massage Monday #507 PNF Neck Stretch http://bit.ly/mm-507

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Reply: