You’re Probably Damaging Your Neck Just Reading This

Three easy exercises to help alleviate neck and back pain – all while sitting at your desk.

Did you know your head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds? That’s between three and four bags of flour, all balanced on the delicate bones and tissues in your neck. No wonder so many of us have neck and upper back pain!

Here’s another not-so-fun fact: every 15 degrees that you extend your head down and forward (while reading your phone or looking down at your keyboard) increases the pressure on your neck exponentially. Picture someone hunched over their phone (as we all do too often); their head now exerts the equivalent of 60 pounds of pressure on their neck. Ouch!

Posture isn’t about sitting up straight. It’s about sitting strong. When your muscles are weak, your ligaments and tendons take the strain, and that can put your joints at risk. Muscles go into spasm to protect the joints, and this can lead to acute pain. And as a result, chronic pain can develop. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our bodies were designed for movement, not for sitting sedentary at a desk all day. And yet, here we are. So what can you do when your work requires you to spend time in postures that can cause stiffness, pain, headaches, and an overall sense of blech?

Here are three quick-and-easy exercises aimed specifically at neck and upper back pain. When done consistently over time, they can open your posture and provide some relief by stretching and strengthening the ligaments and tendons that hug your bones and allowing your body to rest in alignment.

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Simple-Neck-Stretch

Simple Neck Stretch

1. Sit upright in your chair, with your legs uncrossed, knees hip-width apart, and your feet flat on the floor.

2. Relax your shoulders and rest your hands in your lap.

3. Look ahead, with your chin tucked in, so that the back of your head is in line with your back.

4. Keeping your gaze level and your chest facing forwards, turn your head to the right, until you feel the stretch in the opposite side of your neck. Don’t over-extend or force your head round at this point – it’s a gentle stretch. Remember to keep the shoulders relaxed.

5. Breath gently as you hold the stretch for a count of 5.

6. Return your head to the center. Pause to check your posture. Repeat on the other side.

7. Repeat this sequence 3 times.

 

 

Extended-Neck-Stretch

Extended Neck Stretch

1. Repeat the Simple Neck Stretch sequence, but instead of returning to the center, continue the stretch through a gentle rolling movement, a couple of times.

2. Gently breathe as you hold the stretch for a count of 5.

3. Return your head to the center. Pause to check your posture. Repeat on the other side. Repeat this sequence 3 times.

 

 

Chin Tuck

Chin Tuck

1. Sit upright in your chair with your legs uncrossed, knees hip-width apart and feet flat on the floor.

2. Relax your shoulders and rest your hands in your lap.

3. Look ahead, with your chin tucked in, so that the back of your head is in line with your back.

2. Pull your chin in, keeping your gaze level, as if you were trying to press the back of your head into a wall.

3. Hold for a count of 5.

4. Relax, and repeat 5 times.

5. You can also extend this stretch by looking down as if you were going to press your chin into your breastbone.

 

 

 

 

Exercises excerpted from Sit Strong by Harriet Griffey ©Harriet Griffey, 2018. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Hardie Grant Books, an imprint of Hardie-Grant Publishing.

 

 

Photo Credit/Shutterstock

 


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