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Easing Neck Pain During Pregnancy: 23 Expert Recommended Exercises

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Pregnancy is such a beautiful and exciting time, but let’s be honest, it can be a real pain in the neck, literally!

As your belly grows and your body changes, you will likely find yourself dealing with aches and pains you’ve never experience before.

pregnant mom in a white tanktop and pajama pants sitting on a couch holding her neck with a look of pain on her face.

Gentle and Effective Exercises For Pregnancy Neck Pain

According to some studies, 12% of pregnancy women experience neck pain during pregnancy.

Today you will learn the causes and treatments for neck pain during pregnancy so you don’t have to be miserable the remainder of your pregnancy!

From the best stretches to exercises, and home remedies, you will learn all the thing that will hopefully provide some relief!

Disclosure: Although I am a certified prenatal/postnatal exercise specialist and personal trainer, I am not YOUR trainer. The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute of the information and advice you receive from a healthcare professional.

What Causes Neck Pain During Pregnancy?

The most common causes of neck pain include:

  • Hormonal changes: Relaxin and progesterone are two hormones during pregnancy that help to relax and soften the pelvis in preparation for childbirth. However, they also affect the rest of the body which can lead to instability and pain in your joints.
  • Weight Gain: With obvious reasons, one key trigger of neck pain during pregnancy is the added weight that comes with pregnancy. This excess weight, especially in the front body, can cause excess muscle strain and joint pains leading to pain and discomfort in your neck and upper back muscles.

Related: The Truth on Pregnancy Weight Gain-What to Expect & How To manage It

  • Poor Posture: As your pregnancy progress, the core muscles weaken which causes a forward-leaning posture. Other muscles must compensate which can cause more aches and pains in the neck.
  • Decreased Physical Activity: Morning sickness, discomfort, and fear of exercise may cause you reduce your activity levels, especially during early pregnancy. However, lack of exercise can weaken muscles and cause more pain and discomfort.

Related: The Truth on Pregnancy Weight Gain-How Much Should You Gain for a Healthy Nine Months?

  • Sleeping Position: Finding a comfortable sleeping position during pregnancy is no easy feat! The combination of hormones, weight gain, and decreased body strength can lead to muscle stiffness, tension and pain.
  • Changes to Your Center of Gravity: The added weight of the baby and uterus, especially to the front body, can cause a shift in your center of gravity and cause strain on your neck muscles. This especially more noticeable in the second trimester and later stages of pregnancy.

Related: 14 Prenatal Stretches Every Pregnant Mama Needs in Her Life

How To Relieve Neck Pain During Pregnancy?

First things first, you need to determine what is causing your neck to hurt.

Then use these tips to help reduce your pain.

  • Practice Good Posture: Be mindful of sitting straight up with your shoulders drawing back and down away from your ears. Also avoid slouching or hunching over for prolonged periods of time.
  • Exercise and Stretch: Strength training is one of the best ways to find relief, especially during pregnancy. Specific exercises and neck stretches can help dramatically improve the tension in your neck and upper back.

Related: 10 Best Exercises for Better Posture During Pregnancy

  • Heat and Cold Therapy: A warm bath, shower or heating pad can work wonders to relieve muscle stiffness. Heat works by boosting blood flow which helps to relax the muscles while a cold compress helps draw blood out of the muscle to reduce swelling and pain. Alternating between heat and cold can help with a quicker recovery. Everyone needs a Bed Buddy Heat Therapy Pad!
  • Prenatal Massage: Unless your husband has magical fingers, get yourself a massage therapist who specializes in prenatal massage/ Massage therapy is a great way to relax tight muscle, improve circulation and reduce stress and tension in your upper back and neck. Keep in mind, this will only provide temporary relief. For long last pain relief, I strongly encourage you to exercise. (With the approval of your healthcare provider.)
  • Keep Your Core Strong: Strong abdominal muscles helps to support the weight of your growing baby to prevent lower back pain, pelvic pain, upper back pain, pelvis and hips.

Related: Don’t Fear The Core; 26 Essential Exercises For Strong Abs During Pregnancy

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight Gain: Excess weight gain contributes to aches and pains but also puts you at higher risk for possible serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure (preeclampsia) and gestational diabetes. Weight gain is necessary but be sure to discuss what is right for you and your baby with your health care provider.

Related: The Honest Truth About Pregnancy Weight Gain-What Is Considered Healthy

  • Rest: I highly encourage you to treat yourself to a pregnancy support pillow. It will help you sleep in more comfortable positions which will improve the quality of your sleep, relieve tension and reduce stress.

When to Worry About Neck Pain During Pregnancy?

While neck pain is typically nothing serious, it is always a good idea to discuss your concerns and symptoms with your healthcare provider.

Your doctor may need to do further testing to rule out other health conditions or refer you to a physical therapist.

If neck pain is constant and severe it can lead to problems like:

  • Chronic Headaches
  • Loss of sleep or restful sleep, which in turn leads to fatigue, depression, anxiety and mood swings.
  • The pain disrupts you ability to perform every day tasks such as driving, cooking or household chores.

Related: 26 Prenatal Core Exercises To Prevent The Pooch

The Best Exercises To Relieve Pregnancy Neck Pain

In both my professional and personal experience, the best way to relieve tension and stiffness is to both stretch and strengthen the muscles to provide support and stability.

1. Chin Tucks with Rotation

  1. Begin by sitting tall in a chair or standing with your feet shoulder width apart and upper back against a wall.
  2. Place a finger on your chin and gently pull your head straight back until you feel a stretch at the base of your neck.
  3. Make sure to avoid holding your breath and keep shoulders relaxed.
  4. Hold this position for about 5 seconds then glide your chin back forward.
  5. Now once your chin is pulled back, slowly turn your head left to right several times then return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 10 repetitions. This exercise can be done multiple times throughout the day.
18 weeks pregnant chin tucks

2. Pec Stretch

Releasing tension in the chest can help you strengthen your back for a more supportive posture.

  1. Begin by standing next to a door frame or wall with the leg closest to the wall bent and slightly forward.
  2. Engage your core to tuck your tailbone (no arch in your back) and keep your hips facing forward toward your front foot.
  3. Reach the arm that is closest to the wall behind you so that it is in line with your shoulder. You can experiment with different angles to find what feels best for you.
  4. Keeping your shoulder blade drawing down and back, slowly rotate your upper body away from the wall until you feel a stretch across your chest.
  5. Make sure you are not holding your breath and continue holding this position for 10 slow breaths, focusing on keeping your shoulders down and core engaged.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side for 2-3 sets of 10 reps per side.

3. Wall Angels

pregnant mom wearing all black standing against a wall doing wall angels to relieve neck pain in pregnancy
18 weeks pregnant wall angels

This exercise works to strengthen your back and open up rounder shoulders that often causes neck tension.

It is also a great exercise to relieve shoulder pain.

  1. Stand with your back against a wall and feet about 4 inches away from the wall. Focus on keeping your tailbone, upper back, and head against the wall.
  2. Flatten your lower back by tucking your pelvis toward your ribcage with a slight posterior pelvic tilt.
  3. Draw your shoulders down away from your ears and slightly tuck your chin. (see above)
  4. Bring your arms to about 90 degrees with the back of your hands and forearms against the wall.
  5. Keeping your shoulders drawn down and away from your ears, squeeze your mid-back and slowly straighten your arms above your head as far as you can without letting your shoulders rise.
  6. Make sure your back, head, forearms and hands maintain contact with the wall the entire time.
  7. Once you reach the top, lower them back down to slightly below 90 degrees.
  8. Keep the repetitions slow and controlled.
  9. Complete 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions

4. Band Wall Slides

pregnant women wearing all black doing a wall slide exercise with a red loop band around her wrists for neck pain
18 weeks pregnant wall slides
  1. Begin by facing a wall with your feet together or in a split stance.
  2. Place a light-medium resistance loop band around your forearms.
  3. Bring your arms up to a 90-degree angle and press your forearms into the wall as if you are in a plank position.
  4. Keeping your core engaged to prevent arching in your low back, slowly slide your arms up overhead along the wall, slightly pressing out agains the resistance band.
  5. Advanced-Once you reach the tops, squeeze your shoulder blades/upper back together and lift your arms a few inches off the wall while keeping your core engaged and shoulders away from your ears.
  6. Slowly lower your arms back to 90-degress and repeat for 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions.

6. Wall Downward Dog (T-Spine Mobility)

18 weeks pregnant wall down dog
  1. Start by placing your hands shoulder-width apart on a wall so they are at least hip height.
  2. Now walk your feet back as you straighten your arms keeping your hands on the wall.
  3. Once your heels are under your hips and your body is in an L-shape, draw your shoulder blades down away from your ears and slowly lower your head between your upper arms, keeping your arms firmly pressed against the wall.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and relax.
  5. repeat 5-10 times several times a day.

7. Thoracic Spine Bench Stretch

Improving mobility in the upper back lat muscles is an effective way to help relieve tension in the neck and even relieve shoulder pain.

pregnant women wearing all black doing a thoracic spine mobility exercise with her arms on the back of a couch and hands up in a pray position to help relieve neck pain during pregnancy
18 weeks pregnant thoracic spine stretch
  1. Begin by kneeling in front of a low bench. you can also stand and use a counter.
  2. Bring your hands together in a prayer pose and place your elbows on the edge of the bench or counter.
  3. Slowly draw your shoulders down away from your ears and hinge your hips back toward your heels while simultaneously dropping your chest to the ground.
  4. You should feel this stretch across your back, lats and chest.
  5. Hold for 5-8 deep breaths for 5 repetitions.

8. Cat/Cow

This is one of my favorite exercises for both releasing tension in my neck as well as improving core function during pregnancy and postpartum!

18 weeks pregnant cat cow
  1. Begin on your hands and knees with your knees directly under your hips and hands under your shoulders.
  2. Inhale and let your belly sink toward the floor, press your chest forward and slightly lift your head to gaze forward or slightly upward. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  3. As you exhale, slowly engage your core while rounding your spine upward, tucking your tailbone beneath you and drawing your pubic bone slightly forward.
  4. Allow your head to drop down as you push the ground away from you to get a nice stretch in your upper back.
  5. Make sure to keep your shoulders relaxed and drawn down away from your ears.

9. Open Book

This stretch looks easy however it will help release tension in the upper back and neck.

18 weeks pregnant open book stretch
  1. Begin by lying on your right side with your left and foot on a foam roller or pillow and your arms extended out in front of you
  2. Keeping your knees firmly pressed against the ground, inhale and open your top arm across your body and move your head and shoulders with the movement of your arm.
  3. Exhale as you hold the stretch for 15 seconds then slowly return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.

11. Loop Band Pull Apart

fit pregnant mom wearing all black holding a green resistance band doing a band pull apart exercise
18 weeks pregnant band pull apart
  1. Start by holding a light resistance band with both hands out in front of you with your arms straight and chest height. There should be a slight tension on the band but not too tight.
  2. To initiate the movement, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together as you pull the band apart. Make sure to prevent your shoulders from creeping up by your ears.
  3. Hold the position for 3 seconds then return to the starting position.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

12. Banded Lat Pull

fit pregnant mom sitting with her back against a wall doing a lat pull down exercise for neck pain during pregnancy
18 weeks pregnant band pull down
  1. Start by sitting or standing under a resistance band that is attached to a stable surface. You can either be facing forward or back. I prefer to alternate between sitting forward and back.
  2. Engage your shoulder blades and pull the band down as if you are going to put your elbows in your pockets.
  3. Pause at the bottom by squeezing your lats then slowly return to the starting position.
  4. Focus on keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  5. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

13. Reverse Plank

This exercise is another favorite. It helps stretch the chest and shoulders while strengthening the upper back and core for better posture.

fit pregnant mom wearing all black doing a reverse plank exercise during pregnancy
18 weeks pregnant reverse plank
  1. Begin by sitting on the floor. Place your hands behind you with your fingers facing your feet. They should be directly under your shoulders.
  2. Engage your core and slowly extend your legs out in front of you.
  3. Keeping your core engaged, press your palms into the floor and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips and torso toward the ceiling.
  4. Keep your shoulder blades squeezing together and drawing down your back. Do not allow them to creep up toward your ears.
  5. Keep your core engaged by lifting your pelvic floor and drawing your belly button toward your spine (not sucking in).
  6. Gaze up toward the ceiling or slightly in front of you.
  7. Hold the position for 30 seconds or as long as you can before your hips begin to sink.
  8. Complete 3 rounds of 10-12 repetitions.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Pregnancy Neck Pain

Can Exercise Help With Neck Pain?


Absolutely!

Gentle exercises and stretches will help strengthen the muscles that support the upper back and neck to relieve tension and pain.

Always speak to your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

How Can I Prevent Neck Pain During Pregnancy?

Preventative measures include lifestyle changes such as participating in a regular exercise routine, avoiding extra weight gain and focusing on good posture.

Is Neck Pain During Pregnancy Normal?


While neck pain is definitely common in pregnancy, it may not necessarily be normal.

If you have any concerns about your pain, be sure to talk to your health care provider.

Are there any home remedies for neck pain during pregnancy?


Ice packs, a warm shower or bath, prenatal yoga and a neck massage are the best ways to relieve neck pain at home.

You can even throw some epsom salt in your bath to relive achy muscles.

A Final Word On Neck Pain During Pregnancy

Neck pain can really be a nuance, especially during pregnancy when you feel limited to what you can do for the pain.

Engaging in low impact exercises, practicing proper posture and taking regular breaks to stretch your neck and shoulders can help relieve tension.

I must also note that neck pain can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious condition such as a slipped disc or chronic headaches.

Never hesitate to seek medical attention if your symptoms don’t improve on your own or become worse.

FACT CHECK

Struggles of a Fit Mom uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within it’s articles. Read my  editorial process to learn more about how I fact-check and keep my content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

J;, S. D. L. S. A. (n.d.). Healthcare practitioner utilisation for back pain, neck pain and/or pelvic pain during pregnancy: An analysis of 1835 pregnant women in Australia. International journal of clinical practice. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27620139/ 

Content – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. (n.d.). https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=134