Neck stiffness and pain: A seven-part exercise routine you can do without moving away from your desk
If you're someone who frequently gets a stiff neck and associated pain in the neck, shoulders and head due to long hours of sitting at your desk, then you know just how debilitating it can be.
Sitting in front of a computer for eight or more hours every day is something all desk-bound office workers end up doing. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the only thing that changed for most office workers was the venue of work from the workplace to their own home. In fact, the duration of screen-time has probably increased.
If you're someone who frequently gets a stiff neck and associated pain in the neck, shoulders and head due to long hours of sitting at your desk, then you know just how debilitating it can be. A study published in the South African Journal of Physiotherapy in 2017 reveals that neck stretching and strengthening exercises can help reduce neck stiffness and pain. These exercises gently stretch and work the neck and shoulder muscles to relieve pain, even when it tends to radiate beyond your shoulders and extend to your arms, back and head.
You might just say that you don’t have time for elaborate exercise sessions in the midst of your work-from-home life, but the following seven easy exercises can be done within 10-15 minutes and can be done several times a day without you having to move away from your desk.
If you have an injury or any other neck, shoulder or spine-related issue then do not try these exercises without the consultation of your doctor or physiotherapist. If any of these exercises cause immediate or excess pain, the cause of your neck pain could be due to an underlying issue with your muscles or spine. Stop immediately and consult a doctor.
1. Chin tuck
- Sit up straight on a firm surface.
- Make sure your shoulders are straight.
- Now tilt your chin down to your chest.
- Look straight ahead and hold this position for five seconds.
- Release slowly and return to the starting position. Repeat four more times.
2. Side tilt
- Sit straight and stare ahead. This is the starting position.
- Tilt your head towards the right shoulder, trying to touch your right ear to the shoulder, without moving your shoulder up.
- Hold this position for five seconds then go back to the starting position.
- Now tilt your head towards the left shoulder, to try and touch your left ear to the shoulder.
- Hold for five seconds then slowly move back into the starting position.
- Repeat on each side four more times.
3. Neck turn
- Sit straight and look ahead.
- Turn your head to the right slowly.
- Stretch your neck muscles to try and look at the wall behind you, without moving your shoulders.
- Hold for five seconds, then gently turn back to look straight ahead.
- Now turn your head to the left, stretch the muscles and look at the back wall for five seconds.
- Move back to the starting position, and repeat four times on each side.
4. Neck stretch
- Sit up straight with your neck and head in a neutral position.
- Push your chin forward and feel the back of your neck stretching. Don’t tilt your head down.
- Hold for five seconds, then move back to the neutral position.
- Now, push your chin backwards and feel the stretch in your throat.
- Hold for five seconds, then smoothly go back to the neutral position.
- Repeat four more times.
5. Neck half-rotation
- Sit straight with your neck and head in a neutral position.
- Turn your head to the right, then move your head up towards the ceiling.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds, then slowly get back to the neutral position.
- Now, turn your head to the left, then move your head upwards to stare at the ceiling.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds, then gently get back to the starting position.
- Repeat four more times on each side.
6. Shoulder circles
- Sit up straight with your shoulders and neck in a neutral position.
- Gently raise your shoulders up, then move them in a clockwise, circular motion.
- Continue for five turns, stop and relax your shoulders.
- Raise your shoulders up again, then move them in an anti-clockwise, circular motion.
- Repeat five times and then relax.
7. Resistance exercises
- Sit straight with your head and neck neutral.
- Bring your right hand up and place it on the right side of your head, right above your right ear.
- Press your head against the right hand while pushing back with the hand to create resistance.
- Hold for five seconds, relax your hand and neck, and come back to the starting position.
- Now, bring your left hand up and place it on the left side of your head, right above the left ear.
- Press your head and hand against each other for five seconds, then relax both to get back to the starting position.
- Repeat four more times on each side.
For more information, read our article on How to get rid of neck pain.
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