Realignment Exercises To Alleviate “tech Neck”

Realignment exercises to alleviate “tech neck”

Spending so much of your day slumped over desks and screens has a very real detrimental effect on your neck and upper back. Reduce muscle tightness, increase work clarity and boost your overall body health with these in-office exercises.

No matter how much time you spend working out or in a yoga studio, if you’re an office inhabitant or working from home, chances are you spend many hours at a desk. And when you’re not at work, your neck is probably curved over a phone with shoulders, arms and hand muscles in a constant state of contraction.

To state the obvious, sitting for eight-plus hours a day staring at a screen isn’t how your body was designed to function — and forcing it into this these positions can compromise your overall health.

“Tech neck” is a result of sitting with the head forward, neck curved in a downward glance, shoulders rounded, arms and elbows locked upon the side of body and hands gripping a device. Have you noticed issues in your neck and shoulders while holding your handheld device?

People spend approximately five hours a day on tech or on a phone, which has led to alignment issues causing neck aches and pains. Researchers predict that seven to 10 people will experience tech neck or shoulder aches at some point in their lives.

Tech neck compresses and tightens the muscles, tendons and ligament configurations in the front of the neck while lengthening the trapezium and splenius capitis muscle, tendons and ligament structures behind the neck. The average human head weighs around 5kg, which is more than a newborn baby.

In the tech neck position, the head is balanced on seven vertebrae in the neck and supported by 20 muscles that are responsible for mobility in the head/neck structure as well as keeping that weight balanced. Over time, that extra strain of this muscle positioning is causing muscle discrepancy.

All this said, discarding our devices isn’t an option. Instead, what we can do is make sure we develop our posture through proper alignment exercises and practices. These body mobility habits can prevent the aches and pains associated with tech neck.

By doing a quick set of simple stretches at your desk daily, taking the stairs and walking during lunch as opposed to scrolling through social media, you can help offset the ill effects of tech neck and our stagnated body habits.

Moving the body with incidental exercises can account for most of your daily health requirements. These basic exercise tasks may seem strange to complete at work, but building upon fundamental alignment movements in your everyday habits prove to increase work clarity and overall body health. Just spending a mere five to 10 minutes exercising at your desk can stimulate midday blood flow, help you push through the afternoon slump and alleviate nightly headaches.

Below are 10 moves that help reduce muscle tightness. Aim to hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, as this is the amount of time proven to be the most effective. Make sure that you hold the stretch to a point of mild discomfort, but never pain. It’s also important to take breaks where you stand up from your chair and walk around during the day. If possible, use a sit-stand desk at work or in your home office to ensure 30-minute movement breaks for increased productivity.

Exercises to combat tech neck for sitting and standing at work

Strengthening and stretching your muscles with focused alignment can alleviate nagging neck pain. These are the best equipment-free stretches and exercises that will improve body mobility when incorporated twice daily in your routine.

The exaggerated nod
The exaggerated nod counterbalances the downward/forward head position by pulling shoulders down and back and increasing neck mobility.

Padahastasana
Padahastasana, standing up straight onto your tip toes and then touching your toes, stretches the neck and hamstrings. It allows the neck and shoulders to hang and your spine to lengthen. The hips are tight from sitting with legs in a 90-degree angle, therefore straightening up and focusing on lengthening will improve blood flow and stretch the spine.

Seated spinal rotation
Move toward the front of your chair and lean forward. Place palms together between legs with arms fully extended. Reach one hand up and rotate to the side. Work with your breath and exhale while rotating, then inhale on the way back to centre. Switch sides.

Chest opener with upper back extension
Place arms behind the head with fingers interlocked. Extend back over chair while engaging your core and abdominals. Be sure not to allow the lower back to extend. Optionally, use a ball or pillow and place it midway down the back prior to extending backwards.

Neck stretch
Sit tall and upright. Grasp the bottom of the chair with your hand to keep the shoulder depressed. Bring your opposite hand overhead and gently provide pressure on your head as you bring your ear toward your opposite shoulder.

Hold, and then repeat on the other side.

Overhead triceps stretch
Lift one arm overhead. Bend the elbow fully, letting the hand drop toward the mid-back with your palm facing your back. Place your opposite hand on your elbow and apply pressure to increase the stretch. Hold, and then repeat on the other side.

Seated hamstring stretch
Rest your heel on the floor, keeping your leg straight. Gently lean forward until a stretch is felt behind your knee and thigh. Hold, and then repeat on the other leg.

You can intensify the stretch by pointing your ankle and toes upwards towards your body.

Oblique twists
Sit in a swivelling chair with your hands holding the edge of your desk. Spin yourself as far you can to one side using your hands, then switch to the other side. Repeat for at least 10 reps on each side.

Note: If you do not have a swivel chair, you can bend your arms up in front of you and turn your body to the right and left. Just make sure to move from your core.

Seated knee-to-chest: leg lift and leg extension combination
Sit tall in a chair and have your legs straight out in front of your body. Hold the bottom of the chair for support and pull knees in toward your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat at least 10 times. Then lift one leg straight until your hamstring comes off the seat — hold for at least 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Then sit tall, with feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg until it’s parallel with the floor and straight out in front of you by contracting (squeezing) the muscle on the front of your upper thigh. Hold for a second, then lower back to the starting position. Repeat this combination 10 times on each side.

Foam roller
Foam rolling can be an effective tool to add to your warm-up or cool-down before and after exercise, but especially after work for the upper shoulders and back. Using a foam rolling technique can help relieve muscle tightness, soreness and inflammation, and increase your joint range of motion. Complete a roll of this spine back and legs before work and after work daily.

Moving at work

Depending on your office set-up, it might not be practical to exercise at your desk, especially if you’re in close quarters with co-workers. However, there are many other ways to fit in time for incidental exercise at work.

  • Go for a short walk on your breaks.
  • Replace the office chair with an exercise ball.
  • Use the stairs regularly.
  • Consider a standing desk.
  • Consider walking or biking to work if practical.
  • Keep some exercise equipment at work so you can exercise during your lunch break, especially a foam roller.
  • Walk while on the phone and use headphones as opposed to holding the device.

There is no single method guaranteed to alleviate tech-induced pain. If you are struggling to find time to stay active, you may want to try doing these short workouts before you begin your day instead of throughout the day. No matter your time constraint, any effort is worth the effort. This stretch set will keep your muscles active and flexible and that is the key to our best health and mobility.

Belinda Norton

Belinda Norton

Belinda Norton is health and fitness educator and personal trainer with 23 years’ experience. She is a published author of Fit Mama and writer for Kid Spot, and shares her women’s wellness and body alignment expertise. Belinda is a mother of two teens, speaker and children’s health advocate. Connect with her at blivewear.com or Instagram @Belinda.n.x.

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