Whether it’s a steady stream of Zoom meetings or our latest TikTok addiction, the relationship with our devices contributes to tightness in our upper bodies. “Tech Neck” is the unofficial term that describes technology-related neck and shoulder stiffness, which can result in nagging muscle tension and pain.
The good news, even if we spend many hours on our devices, is that we have a sequence of exercises to help you address this common issue so you can get back to optimizing your life!
You can do these exercises individually, but you’ll get better results if they are done in the following sequence. Your muscles will be released then stretched, with the correct muscles starting to strengthen.
Sub-occipital Lacrosse Ball Smash
This exercise releases the muscles at the base of the skull—called the sub-occipital muscles. They extend and rotate the upper portion of your neck. Postures that put our head into a forward position can lead to tightening and discomfort in the neck, and this can help alleviate nagging muscle tightness.
- Lie on your back on the floor, bend your knees to 90 degrees, and place your feet on the ground to get a neutral spine position.
- Place two lacrosse balls or a double lacrosse ball (called a peanut) at the base of your skull making sure to avoid the bony prominences of your neck vertebrae.
- Rest your neck on the lacrosse balls.
- Gently tilt your chin up and down. This will feel slightly uncomfortable, but should not feel extremely painful.
Repetitions: 15-20 chin nods
Sets: 3 (can spread throughout the day)
Upper Fiber Trapezius Stretch
Stretch your side neck musculature with this exercise. The trapezius muscle has three different segments that span the upper half of the back and the entire length of the back of the neck. Often upper portions of the trapezius muscle become overworked and tense due to heightened and rounded shoulders. Many of us also tend to hold a lot of our stress in these muscles. Use this exercise to stretch them and relieve tension.
Exercise how to:
- Stand or sit, and use your right hand to grasp your left wrist behind your back.
- Pull the left arm towards the right side to bring your left shoulder down.
- Now tilt your head to the right as if trying to bring your right ear to your right shoulder. You’ll feel the left side of your neck being stretched. It should feel slightly uncomfortable, but not overly painful
- Repeat on the other side.
Duration: 30-60 seconds for each side
Sets: 3 (can spread out throughout the day)
Neutral Row With a Band
This exercise strengthens the middle and lower portions of the trapezius muscle and the rhomboid muscles, which both work to hold your shoulder blades in a neutral position. These muscles also retract to lower your shoulder blades. However, our shoulder blades may sit higher, especially if the upper trapezius fibers are tight and tense and the lower and middle trapezius fibers and rhomboid are weak. Use this exercise to strengthen the proper postural muscles and position the shoulder blades to sit in a more natural position, which ultimately relaxes the neck musculature.