3 Desk Exercises to Prevent Neck Pain
Poor health consequences such as neck pain, headaches, shoulder tightness, restriction of breathing, migraines, and jaw pain are associated with faulty neck posture. To save your neck, you need to be proactive of maintaining proper posture throughout the day.
Forward Head Posture – a Pain in the Neck
Forward head posture occurs when the head protrudes forward more than an inch over the atlas, which is your first cervical vertebra. With proper posture the ear is in alignment over the shoulder. As the head protrudes forward with forward head posture you can see that the ear is anterior in relation to the shoulder.
Forward head posture can be a “pain in the neck” and can cause decreased mobility of the cervical spine. According to Kapandji (2010), for every inch that your head protrudes anteriorly from its normal position, you add 10 additional pounds of force upon the neck. This is a tremendous amount of load on the delicate cervical spine.
Forward head posture can arise due to many different causal factors, many of which are repetitive in nature and occupationally related. For prevention of forward head posture it is important to be mindful of your posture in the workplace.
Common Factors Causing Forward Head Posture:
- Squinting your eyes and drawing your head forward to read a sign, book, or computer monitor
- Looking down at a cell phone for a prolonged period of time
- Slouched sitting position with the shoulders forward resulting in forward head posture
- Not resting your head on the back of the chair or a cervical support, allowing the head to draw forward
The American Posture Institute recommends a 3-component approach to reverse postural distortion patterns including spinal alignment, posture rehabilitation, and posture habit re-education.
- For spinal alignment correction, contact a Certified Posture Expert in your community to assess and correct your postural distortion patterns
- For posture rehabilitation you can perform Reverse Posture exercises to reverse postural distortion patterns and increase mobility
- Posture Habit Re-education is the mindful creation of new posture habits for better postural alignment during your activities of daily living
3 Desk Exercises to Save Your Neck
To prevent poor posture in the workplace you can perform these three 3 simple exercises that will save your posture and prevent occupationally related neck pain. For best results, perform each exercise twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon to stimulate neck mobility.
Neck retractions are a great exercise to reverse forward head posture. To perform neck retractions you retract your neck back pushing the back of your head against the back of your chair. Retract the neck back and hold for 10 seconds, then repeat 5 times. As you retract the neck back think about pushing your chin back and keeping your eyes parallel to the horizon while sitting up straight with good posture. A common mistake is that people look up and back, instead of retracting the head back in a linear fashion. Your chin should stay in the same plane of movement during the movement.
Cervical Lateral Bend:
The cervical lateral bend is a stretch to elongate your trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles. To perform this stretch, sit up straight and flex your neck to one side so that your ear approximates towards your shoulder. Make sure you shoulders are pulled back and your ear is in alignment over your shoulder. For a more intense stretch you can use your hand to pull your head further toward your shoulder.
If you draw your left ear to the left shoulder then use your left hand to pull the head further towards the left shoulder. You will feel the stretch on the right side. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds then repeat on the other side.
Neck rotations help increase range of motion of the cervical spine. Keeping your eyes parallel with the horizon, rotate your head to the right and hold. Keep your shoulders back and down in a relaxed fashion. As you rotate to the right you will be looking over your right shoulder. Hold that position for 30 seconds then return back to center. Rotate to the left and hold the position for 30 seconds. Be sure to keep your face and jaw relaxed and not grit your teeth.
These three exercises will help you maintain proper posture while at work, and you didn’t even have to get up from your desk! Plus, they will take you just 3 minutes to perform and will save you from experiencing postural distortion patterns and neck pain. 6 minutes of neck exercises per day to help keep the pain away!
Kapandji, A. (2010) Physiology of the Joints 6th Edition. Churchill Livingstone. ISBN: 9781455725205.