Let’s say you’re sitting at a computer for a while—it could be for an hour or more. You get up out of your chair—and ping, your neck aches and feels stiff. You can barely turn to look over your shoulder. Ouch! This type of pain can happen when we’ve been working at a desk…driving…even doing something relaxing such as working on a puzzle or craft.
Reason:Many of us sit with poor posture, and this affects the connecting muscles that control the position of the spine, including the neck. Stay in this position for a while—and muscles become tight, resulting in pain and stiffness.
Stretching the neck muscles during and after you have been sitting for a while can help, says Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT, doctor of physical therapy and managing director of In Motion O.C. in Irvine, California. So try the five stretches below!
Note: If you have constant neck pain (that does not appear to be related to how much time you spend sitting), don’t do these exercises for pain relief. While they might help you, it’s much better to speak to a doctor or physical therapist, who can help determine the root cause of your pain.
FIVE STRETCHES TO HELP YOUR NECK
These five moves are easy to do—and feel great. To make them easier to do, you can watch them at https://Vimeo.com/57019333/.
For all of these exercises, sit up straight and comfortably in a hard-backed chair that has no arm rests.
This move stretches the large muscle that connects the base of the skull to the upper back, collar bones and shoulder blades.
Place your right arm behind your back at waist level. Place your left hand over the top of your head and gently grasp the right side of your head. With your left hand, gently pull your head toward your left shoulder. Your left ear will be close to your left arm. Hold for one minute…or hold for 30 seconds, relax and then repeat the move. Switch hands and repeat on the other side.
Downward Head Stretch
This move eases tightness of the muscle that runs between the upper part of the shoulder blades and neck. You will really feel this stretch in the back of your neck.
As you did in the first exercise, place your right hand behind your back at waist level. Put your left hand on the top of your head. Turn your face toward your left arm pit and gently push your head toward the arm pit (it’s OK if your left hand slides back down your head to get a good stretch). Hold for 30 seconds and repeat. Or hold for one minute and only do one repetition. Repeat on the other side.
Shoulder Pinch Stretch
This move helps you maintain good posture. You will feel a stretch across your pectoral muscles in the upper chest.
Sit up tall. With your arms by your sides, bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, hands palm-up. Position your arms so that the backs of your palms are a foot or so above your thighs. Pull your shoulder blades together and as you do so, let your arms rotate out to your sides, keeping elbows bent. Repeat the rotating movement 20 times.
This move increases upper- and lower-back flexibility.
Cross your arms in front of you and place your right hand on the front of your left shoulder and your left hand on the front of your right shoulder. Gentle rotate your torso and head to one side as far as you can go—and return to center. Then rotate to the other side. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Sitting Knee Pillow Squeeze
This move strengthens the hip flexors and solidifies your core muscles and the foundation upon which your neck depends. You will feel this move in your hips and inner thighs.
Sit straight up in your chair—and place a thick pillow between your knees. Roll your hips forward. Hold the pillow with your thighs—squeeze and release. Repeat 20 times—and work up to three sets.
Source: Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT, is a doctor of physical therapy and managing director of In Motion O.C. in Irvine, California. www.InMotionOC.com