These three neck exercises for facial and jaw pain come from Donald R. Tanenbaum, DDS, MPH, a board certified TMJ and orofacial pain specialist, and author of “Doctor, Why Does My Face Still Ache.”

Neck Exercise 1

Goal: Gentle stretch of upper neck muscles

Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Anchor your right hand under the chair. 

Turn your head to the left and place your left hand on the back of your head.

Pull your head down, towards your left shoulder with gentle force. 

Turn your nose into your armpit for increased stretch of the trapezius muscle.  Hold 3-4 seconds.  Relax.

Reverse the exercise and repeat on the other side.  Repeat 10 times on each side.

Neck Exercise 2 

Sit in a chair with your feet on the ground. Anchor your right hand under the chair. 

Turn your head to the left and place your left hand across your left temple.

Gently pull backwards stretching your lateral neck muscle (sternocleidomastoid).  Hold 3-4 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Reverse directions to stretch the opposite side.

Neck Exercise 3

Clasp your hands over your head, and pull your head down gently, chin to chest.  Hold 5 seconds.  Release.  Repeat 10 times.

Remember to breathe throughout all of these exercises.  You should not feel any pain as you move through the routines.

Posture is important.                                     

“Though we do not feel that abnormal posture as an independent factor is responsible for the onset for persistent facial pain problems (just like bruxism often occurs without pain symptoms developing), it must be considered a risk factor when coupled with ‘a brain under siege,’” says Dr. Tanenbaum.

What he means by “brain under siege” is that which occurs to the brain when a person is overwhelmed with stress, anxiety or anger – literally letting negative emotions get the best of them.

Stress produces tangible effects to the brain and body, and the brain and body are intimately connected.

“Home programs to address postural strains can provide relief when routinely practiced,” says Dr. Tanenbaum.

Dr. Tanenbaum’s practice focuses on facial pain, TMJ disorder and sleep-related breathing disorders. He is the past president of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain and takes a multidisciplinary approach to his patients’ care.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.