Self Care – The Box – Ice and Stretch for Your Neck

“The Box” is a routine that I’ve given many clients over the years.

It is a well-rounded approach. It is best used as a complete routine. When an area seems particularly restricted or sensitive to the ice, it should be revisited after the first round of a complete routine.

The Box refers to an imaginary box that surrounds the head. The neck is stretched by tilting the head toward each side and each corner of the box, then the head is turned to the left and right. That’s 10 stretches.

In the video, I stretch the top and bottom of the neck. That’s 20 stretches that take about 6 minutes.

First, stretch the upper neck.

First, these ten stretches should be done at the top of the neck to loosen the upper cervicals, which govern the lower cervicals. Ice near the top of the neck and tilt the head so that it focuses on the upper neck. Watch the first half of the video to see how that’s done.

If you’re working with Forward-Head posture, focus on stretches #1, #2, #3, #9 and #10 in the back and sides upper neck.


Then, stretch the lower neck.

Then, the same ten stretches should be used on the lower neck. Ice along the middle and lower neck. Tilt the head and neck to stretch the lower and middle muscles of the neck. Watch the second half of the video. The base of the neck in the back is often tense and is usually already overstretched. Focus on stretching the base of the neck at the front and the SCMs to get longer-lasting relief in the back.

If you’re working with Forward-Head posture focus on stretches #6, #7, #8, #9 and #10 in the lower neck.

Hold your head high. This stretching is more effective when you lift your head away from your body as you stretch. This relaxes the muscles that compress the neck and supports the structures that decompress the neck.

A few pops are good for you. The joints in the neck, like your knuckles, may pop as you stretch them. It’s just an air bubble the moves and won’t move (pop) again for about 20 minutes. There are lots of joints in the neck and there can be a number of pops that occur. Muscles tense around binding joints and the pop usually offers relief in that area.

Note: If you can get the same pop over and over, every time you repeat the movement, that’s usually a ligament that’s flipping over the edge of a bone. It can aggravate the ligament to pop it repeatedly. Don’t do that.


You can do these anywhere,
with or without ice
but these tips help you
get better results :

  • Use a chair with legs or a seat that you can use to stabilize your arms.
  • Use a mirror to get the stretches right.
  • Sit up straight, off the back of the chair
  • Have a place nearby to set your big, square, melting ice cube in a washcloth.

This post shows you how to use ice to stretch with less pain, in less time with more effective results.

The Video

Here is a video showing the entire routine, all 20 stretches, in less than 7 minutes. If you are not familiar with Ice-and-Stretch technique, take a few seconds to review this post.


The Stretches

I’ve numbered the stretches based on the direction the head moves during the stretch.

Stretch #1

Ice along the back of the neck, in the area under the big arrow.

Tilt the head forward by tucking the chin so that the skin pulls up along the back of the neck and into the upper back.

If you have Forward-Head Posture. Stretch stretch a few extra times when you’re working on the top of the neck.


Stretches #2 and #3

Ice the back of the neck along the side. Turn your nose toward the side that you iced in the back, then, tilt the top of your head away from the area you iced. Don’t forget to lift.

In general, this area is emphasized the balance of tight muscles around the upper cervicals. Give it a few extra reps, especially if you have Forward-Head Posture.


Stretches #4 and #5

Ice the side of the neck under your ear. Tilt the top of your head away from the side that you iced. Watch yourself in the mirror to make sure that you can still see both ears. and your head is straight.

When you do this correctly and your arms are secured on the chair, you can feel this pull all the way through the shoulder, even when you are stretching the top of the neck.

Stretch #6

Ice along the front of your throat. Lift your chin and head away from your chest and jut your jaw forward to create a greater stretch. Avoid just tilting your head back.

Stretch #7 and #8

Ice along the side of your neck, in the front. Ice the area that you didn’t ice in stretches #4, #5 and #6. Turn your nose away from the area that you iced and lift the edge of your jaw up. Play with the angle a bit to get a good stretch right where you iced. Focus on lifting and not just leaning back.

This stretch is effective for Forward-Head posture and thoracic outlet syndrome.

Stretch #9 and#10

Ice the area along the big muscle that extends from the bump behind your ear to the middle third of your collar bone. Turn your nose toward the side that you iced. Pick a level along the wall that you trace as you turn your head toward the shoulder. Like most of the stretches, this works better if you anchor your arms by grabbing the legs or seat of the chair.

This muscle is very complex and this stretch can have a dramatic impact on posture, and regulation. This muscle pulls the head down, forward, and restricts turning. The vagus nerve runs in a sheath on the deep surface of the muscle. Releasing the muscle consistently leaves the person calm and more evenly regulated.



This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began changing the format of the posts to include more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We’d love your feedback. We are adding posts and converting the old posts as quickly as time permits.


Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make it easier to read, more accessible, and
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