Many of us sit at a desk throughout the day, which is posture’s worst enemy. We often lean forward toward the computer taking our chin forward as well, the shoulders drift up and rotate internally. This causes muscles in the back of the neck to tighten and shorten, leads to wear and tear of joints, weakens the skeletal muscles, impinges mobility, and can even be the source of neck strains.

If you are experiencing stiffness and pain in the neck and shoulders, it’s time to balance your posture and start a daily stretching routine. Here are some exercises for superior neck health, along with some easy tips to keep your spine aligned:

Stretches:

Do these stretches daily to keep tightness and discomfort in the neck and shoulders at bay:

Pec stretch:

Face a wall and put your right palm on the wall a little bit above shoulder height. Turn the body away from the wall until you feel a stretch in your stretch. Make sure the right shoulder is down and away from the ear. If your mobility is limited, lower the hand to slightly below shoulder height. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat twice on each side.

Lats stretch/Child’s pose variation:

Come down to the floor on your knees. Bring your big toes together and take your knees slightly wider than hip width apart. Sink the hips back so that you’re sitting on your heels. Reach the arms forward, extending them completely with the palms on the floor and bring your forehead and chest as close to the floor as possible. Hold for 30 seconds and feel the stretch along the back and into the arms. Then, walk the hands to the right coming into a slight twist. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on each side.

Suboccipital muscle stretch and strength:

Start in natural stance with chin pulled forward and a slight arch in the back of the neck. Slowly bring the chin down and back into the throat straightening the back of the neck.  Hold for five seconds and do two sets of 10 reps.

Reclined thoracic spine stretch:

Start lying on your right side. Straighten the bottom leg and bend the top leg. Place a cushion under the knee and drop the top knee to the cushion. Keep a straight line from the knee to the hip. Also be sure your hips are stacked on top of each other. Extend the arms in front of you placing one arm on top of the other with the palms touching. Keeping the bottom arm on the ground with the palm up, lift the top arm to the sky. Once the arm is in line with the chest, twist the upper back and drop the back arm toward the floor. Repeat 10 times and do two sets on each side.

Tips for improving posture:

Good posture is another element of a healthy neck. Here are some ideas to consider:

When sitting:

  • Make sure your back is lined up with the back of the chair. Fight the urge to slouch or lean forward.
  • If you have the financial means, purchase an office chair that is ergonomically designed. This makes sitting correctly even easier and allows for a custom fit.
  • Get up walk around at regular intervals during your workday. Take the stairs, hand deliver a message to a co-worker instead of e-mailing it, do some standing stretches, or even take a lap around the office. This will keep you loose.
  • To help you sit up straight and keep those shoulders in the proper position, ensure that you’re feet are touching the floor when sitting. Either adjust the chair or try a footrest.
  • Set up your workspace appropriately if sitting at a desk or working at a computer. Move the chair close enough to your desk so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and your upper arms are parallel with your spine. Make sure your gaze is directed at the center of the computer screen. For less slouching, use your armrests and position them so they give your shoulders a slight lift.
  • When driving, adjust your seat so that you don’t need to lean forward to reach the steering wheel. In addition, position the headrest so that it is resting against the middle of your head.

When standing:

  • Rock forward and then rock back. Notice how it feels to put all of your weight onto your heels and then onto the balls of the feet. Find the middle ground and balance your weight evenly through the feet.
  • Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart and let your arms hang loosely by your sides.
  • Don’t let the head and neck drift forward when standing or walking. Line the head up with spine. Your earlobes should be above the middle of your shoulders. Direct your gaze in front of you, lengthen the crown of the head toward the ceiling, and tuck your chin slightly under.
  • Pull in the lower belly and tuck the tailbone under to a degree that allows you to stand completely straight. Keep the shoulders upright and aligned over the hips.

You will notice a huge change in your posture and an improvement in neck stiffness by following these guidelines and stretching regularly. What other tips do you have for avoiding neck and shoulder pain?

Reference

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