Active Recovery

The CARS Method Loosens Up Your Neck Tension Better Than Any Stretch

Photo: Getty Images/PeopleImages
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't experienced tech neck or neck tension before, which means that the world at large is in need of tips for addressing neck compression and alignment. Out of all the tension-busting methods out there, physical therapists love recommending controlled articular rotations for the neck.

If you haven't heard of this method, controlled articular rotation (also known as CAR) is the practice of moving your muscle group through its entire range of motion, which helps with your mobility. "Essentially a CAR is when you're activating muscles as you're taking them through a full range of motion," says Aaron Alexander, a movement coach and author of The Align Method. "This is helpful because it's actually creating stability and support with flexibility at the same time." So working through these functional movements benefits you by giving you more lengthened, supple muscles. "You'll walk away with more spaciousness in your neck and a longer sensation in your spine," says Alexander.

This isn't to say that good old-fashioned neck stretches aren't doing you any favors, but CARs are what Alexander calls a different tool in your recovery toolbox. The benefit of adding these into your regimen is that they're "a great opportunity to realign your muscles and give them their integrity in their newfound ranges of motion," he says. "Oftentimes people will see massage therapists who will make everything loose and happy, but at some point the body needs to be able to fire into action, which is the other side of the coin. The CARs movement is helping to integrate those two worlds."

To target your neck, start by elongating the spine. "Imagine there is a little string pulling up the back of your head, then envision getting your ears stacked on top of your shoulders, shoulders on top of hips, knees, and ankles," he says. From that position, move into the side bending position while keeping that length. "Pretend that the string is pulling you up and to the left, then up and almost arching your neck over forward, bending up and to the right, and up and back," he says. The most important thing is to maintain an elongated position and avoid collapsing in any way. Watch it in action, below.

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