Many people with neck pain also have weak muscles in the neck, upper back and core. By strengthening and stretching those muscles, more blood flow comes to the area to help repair injury. Your ability to function in your daily activities also improves. Stronger muscles provide greater stability to the neck and trunk to help establish and maintain good posture and enhance all body movements. Increasing strength helps protect you from future problems. Moderate strength training is one of the most valuable things you can do for your overall health and is especially important if you have neck pain. Continue exercises as long as your symptoms do not return, get worse, or move away from the center of the back. Special equipment and gyms can be helpful, but there are good, low-tech, inexpensive ways to strengthen neck muscles at home. Five simple exercises can help strengthen the muscles in your neck and upper back:

Isometric strengthening:

1. Sit in a chair with your back supported and your head in the neutral position. Place your hand across your forehead. Push your head and neck forward as hard as you are able while firmly resisting any movement of your head with your hand. Push for 10 seconds, then relax, and repeat three times.

2. Similarly, place your hand against the back of your head as you try to push your head backward against the resistance of your hand. Push as hard as you are able for 10 seconds, relax, and repeat three times.

3. Do the same by bending your neck to either side, again pushing as hard as you can against the resistance of your hand that is placed against the side of your head. Push for 10 seconds, relax, and repeat three times.

Perform one set of each of these exercises twice a day. As you repeat them over time, you can vary the position of your head and neck as your hand resists your movement, bending slightly forward, backward, or to each side. These exercises will increase your neck strength in all directions of motion.

Prone Head Lifts: Lying face down on a firm surface, raise your chest, shoulders and head up by resting on your elbows. Let your head hang fully downward so your chin is on or near your chest. Lift your head upward to the head-neutral position, being sure to retract your head (tuck your chin) as you move. Then continue lifting your head upward and backward as far as it will go in an attempt to look skyward. Hold that position for 5 seconds before slowly returning through that head-neutral position to the original downward head-hanging position. Repeat that exercise 5 times, twice a day.

Supine Head Lifts: Lying on your back on a firm surface, raise your head fully off the surface, taking your chin to your chest, and hold for 5 seconds before returning to your starting position. Repeat that lift 8-10 times, twice a day.

Scapular Retraction: Stand with your arms at your sides. Keep your head and neck in neutral position. With chest lifted, gently but firmly pull both shoulders backward while squeezing both shoulder blades backward and downward. Hold for 10 seconds and work up to 30 seconds. Perform one set of 5 repetitions, twice a day. You may add some resistance by stretching a towel or an elastic band across your chest while you pull your shoulders backward.