We’ve written several posts now, over the course of the last year, on the importance of proper workstation alignment, the uptick in muscle problems caused by the use of electronic devices and even talked about very specific maladies like Torticollis. We’ve been doing all this posting because, no matter how much we shout it from the mountaintops, we still see our clients coming in every day with chronic neck and shoulder pain, shortening of the arm muscles and pain in or down the lower arms and hands — all caused by long hours spent in front of electronic devices.
Because of this, we’ve decided to provide our readers, clients and friends with a series on neck health, including stretching and strengthening tips.
Your Big Head
So there you are, sitting at your desk holding up your very heavy head (on average it weighs 15 to 20 pounds) with neck muscles that are designed to move flexibly and keep it upright, but not bear the brunt of supporting its weight. Now, you probably wonder who is supposed to hold it up, if not the neck and the answer is your whole, properly aligned spine.
The problem is though, that the tendency of human beings, while sitting at a desk looking at a computer, is to hold your head with your chin jutting forward, taking the cervical vertebrae out of alignment — along with the rest of your spine.
Proper posture automatically realigns your head with your neck and spine. If you’re not sure where that is — the middle of your ear should be in line with the middle of your shoulder, have a coworker help you determine if this is the case.
Instead of tipping your head forward to get closer to the screen, keep your spine straight with head back and bend at the waist, this position gives you a nice low back stretch at the same time. If doing this is uncomfortable or painful it means that your body has gotten used to being out of alignment and your muscles have shortened or developed adhesions making it uncomfortable to be in the proper position. Although stretching helps to keep muscles more supple, it does not fix chronic conditions. (We’ll cover this in the next segment.)
Here’s a video we like on how to release neck tension with resistive stretching:
As with any other stretch enter and exit the exercise slowly, and hold for about 10 to 15 seconds each time, repeating it 5 times at three different intervals throughout the day.
Resistive Stretching Lengthens Muscles:
- While sitting with proper posture take your right arm and reach over your head, placing your palm over your left ear, gently pull to the right until you feel resistance. While in this position push with your head against your hand and hold for the count of 3, you will then pull your head a bit more to the next point of resistance and again push and hold for a count of 3. Repeat procedure one more time, release head and go back to center. Now, do the same thing on the other side.
- Interlace fingers and place palms side of hands against the back of the head with thumbs resting at the base of the neck. Slowly bring your head to your chest until you meet resistance and push straight back into your hands to the count of 3, NEVER push too hard, just enough that you engage the muscles. Repeat two more times at the next resisting spot.
- While aligned rotate neck to the left as far as it will comfortably then place the palm of your right hand on your right cheek bone, not lower jaw, rotate head against the right hand and hold for the count of 3. Find the next point of resistance and do it again, repeating until all resistance has been located.