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Wednesday, October 18, 2017




This article is about a little at-home ‘life hack’ to remedy a sore neck.  All you need is a regular bath towel and somewhere comfortable to lie down.  It is a gentle relaxation exercise that encourages the neck to return to its normal lordotic (see diagram below) curve.  The rolled towel provides a curved surface for the relaxed neck to ‘stretch’ on.  It could be considered a myofascial release of sorts, to release the soft tissue of the neck and allow the neck to move in its normal range of motion.  It does require you to lie down for at least 10 minutes.  Once you feel comfortable with it you can progress incrementally up to 20 minutes.

Please note if you have severe neck pain or disc problems, seek appropriate medical attention before trying this technique.  This exercise/technique is gentle and should not be painful.  If you experience pain, please seek proper medical care. (Please see a professional, doctor google doesn’t quite cut it).

Anatomy of the neck and spine

The spine forms a long column that creates the base structure to our frame and can be thought of as a central building block of the body.  It provides structure and protection for organs and the spinal cord.   It also provides additional features such as shock absorbers in the vertical plane (up and down).  If you look at the body from the side view (lateral anterior/posterior view) you will see three distinct curves in the spine.  The lower back has a lordosis curve, the middle back has a kyphotic curve (thoracic) and the neck also has a lordosis curve.  It is because of these curves that we can deal with stresses going up and down in the body.  For example, running would be problematical if the body could not absorb the up/down (vertical) shock of striding and landing on our feet.

The neck has seven small bones called vertebrae that stack up on each other. These are the cervical vertebrae and form the cervical part of the spine.  The normal curve of the neck should be similar to that of the lower back, in that it curves anteriorly forward.  For some people the curve can be reduced or even straight, which tends to lead to neck pain and complaints.  Also, the smaller facet joints can become stuck or immobile, which will also cause pain and discomfort.

Cervical towel roll technique 

The use of a simple rolled-up towel can encourage the natural lordotic curve of the neck.  If there are stuck facet joints the towel roll exercise can help free these up.  Usually when mobility returns to these joints they feel much better and movement much improved.  If you have ever cracked or adjusted your neck, it is usually these joints that have shifted and make the pop or click noise.

-You will need 1 regular bath towel

-A flat soft area to lie down.

YouTube clip explanation :

1.  Prepare the towel. You need to make a roll out of the towel. I like to fold it in half (longways), then half again. From here simply roll the towel up till you get a nice firm cylinder. I find a firmer roll works better and has more effect.

2. Lie down somewhere flat and soft. On the bed works fine, or carpeted floor, yoga mat.  A couch is suitable if you can lie completely flat and not have your head and legs sticking out in awkward directions.

3. Lie on your back face up looking at the ceiling.  Putting something soft such as a pillow under the knees is relaxing and it softens the spine a bit.  You can have the head unelevated or use a flat pillow.  Now place the rolled-up towel under the neck.  The neck should feel comfortable and supported, but also like it’s getting a little stretched out.  Everyone is unique so you will need to experiment with the rolled towel by making it smaller or larger to find the appropriate size for you. Make the towel cylinder smaller by simply unrolling it a bit with the flappy part under the skull and not down near the shoulders.

4. Once you have found your support posture and everything feels good, you just need to lie there for 10 to 20 minutes. Very simple.
I hope you find some value in this home help technique and it comes in handy one day.

Sleeping on a towel roll

I you think your pillow may not be suportive and causing your stiff neck / pain you can incorporate the towel roll with your pillow and sleep on it. The Video below demonstrates this.