Generally, research does not support the effectiveness of stretching exercises for pain. However, the neck is a bit of an exception. When it comes to neck pain, there is some high quality research (randomized controlled trials) to support stretching as an intervention (1).
In one study, stretching as part of a home program 5 times per week improved pain equally as well as osteopathic doctor mobilization with massage twice per week (2).
This opened my eyes a bit as a clinician and has brought me back to stretching for those with neck pain. I’ve made a video of a few easy stretching exercises given to my patients as a home exercise program after the initial evaluation.
Of course a few basic stretches in no way replaces a full evaluation by a knowledgeable professional but these stretches are an easy way to give your patients some relief on their own that might actually end up decreasing their pain as much as mobilization would. Feel free to send this video to your patients or try it yourself then let me know what you think!
And no, I don’t have normal range of motion in my neck, not by a long shot,
P.S. If you enjoyed this glorious video and want to stay up to date with the next wave of awesome then sign up for the newsletter on the top right hand side of the page and become enlightened!