Please note that these stretches are intended to be used with professional advice from your osteopath. Using them on your own may result in your symptoms getting worse or causing further damage to the affected area. Use them at your own risk. Do keep in mind that there are more factors than just muscles which are involved with most spinal or joint problems - hence stretches cannot fix all painful issues on their own - but they are very useful for the maintenance of mobility and taking the load off joints. You are quite welcome to ask us questions about the stretches presented here, or give us suggestions for new additions.

General Instructions:

Stretches will vary according to the desired result on the muscle or tissue you would like to stretch. Most of the stretches presented here are intended for osteopathic patients attempting to recover from a particular issue. Hence the emphasis is towards a single muscle or group of muscles rather than producing complex regional stretching movements. In order to produce a 'retraining' effect on the muscles it is recommended to hold these stretches for about 30 seconds each. You only need to do them once in one sitting, but they do need to be repeated several times a day for optimum results. Changes should be seen within the first week and then gradually continue. If you want to produce a change in the passive length of the muscle it is recommended to hold them for at least 60 seconds. Similarly only one repetition is needed, but these are best done right after exercise and in general wouldn't need to be done more than twice a day. The changes in the passive elements of muscles will take much longer and will be very incremental.
In the photos below the green arrows always represent the area where you should expect to feel the stretch and the red arrows represent the direction in which movement is made.

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Lev. Scap. Stretch (1)

  1. Put your hand over your shoulder and onto the base of your neck.

  2. Point your elbow straight ahead and make sure it stays there as you perform the stretch.

  3. Let your head dip down and turn to look away from your elbow.

  4. You should feel a strap of tightness from the top end of your shoulder blade up the same side of the neck as the raised arm and extending towards the top of the neck.
Suboccipital Stretch (2)

  1. Stand upright with a straight back, facing away from a wall.

  2. Put a firmly rolled up towel right under the bony prominence at the back of your head.

  3. Then tuck your chin towards the wall.

  4. Tilting your head down will lead to you stretching the wrong muscles. It's important to just pull your chin backwards. You should feel a stretch at the very top of your neck.
Trap. Stretch (3)

1. Sitting upright on a chair, grip the mid-point of the side of the chair on the side you would like to stretch.
2. Sidebend your head away from the side on which you are holding the chair. Take care not to turn your head.
3. Drop your head forward towards your chest.
4. You should feel the stretch along the side of the neck, top of the shoulder and down towards your shoulder blade.
5. If you would like to make the stretch stronger, you can reach across with your opposite hand onto the side of your head and provide a very gentle additional pressure. This is only in case you feel little or no stretch using the previous steps.
Scalene Stretch (4)

1. Sitting upright on a chair, grip the front end of the side of the chair on the side you would like to stretch.
2. Sidebend your head away from the side on which you are holding the chair. Take care not to turn your head.
3. Move your chest and shoulders backwards without letting your head drop backwards too far. If your head drops too far backwards you may cause pain or tightening in the back of the neck. The stretch should be felt at the front and side of the neck and you may feel light pulling down the arm.

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