We’ve explored posture hacks on “duck feet” (link here) and “Donald Duck” posture (link here). For our final installment on posture hacks, we leave the ducks behind and look at the shoulders and neck. Now days, many careers are spent hunched over a laptop or squinting at a hand-held device which leads to a rounded-shoulder, head-forward posture commonly known as “tech neck”.
In “Tech Neck,” sight seems to take over our concern for good posture, as our eyes literally compel the head forward to get a better look at ever-present screens. The result? Neck fatigue, back pain, shoulder pain, even headaches, much of which could be resolved by working on better postural habits and improving the muscle imbalances that got us here in the first place. That’s right: once again, the exercises alone will not resolve this situation; you must also examine and improve your environment to make progress on this painful scenario.
Zone 3: Shoulders and Neck
Stand side-ways to a mirror, or even better, have a friend take a picture of you in profile. Does your chin ride a little forward of your collarbone? Or maybe, a lot forward? Does your neck seem to have a large inward curve, where there should be a smaller one? Do you notice a large outward curve of your shoulders, where they used to be much straighter? Do your arms seem to hang forward of your shoulders? If you said yes to any or all of these, you likely struggle with some form of “Tech Neck.” To be clear, the goal is not to completely straighten the curves of your spine, but to “lengthen” them a bit. “Lengthening” the spine decreases painful muscle tension, by “stacking” the major body parts in a more vertical fashion. Consider how much less the back of your neck and shoulders would hurt if your head sat directly on top of your neck. The muscles that are working so hard to hold your head on your neck could relax and let the true postural muscles (the deep neck muscles) do their job completely without pain. Interested? Try this…
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on your mat. Put a pillow or some folded towels under your head, but only enough to make your face level (parallel to the floor.) Over time, you should be able to reduce the amount of folded towels or height of the pillow under your head as your neck muscles begin to lengthen. Start with your arms at your sides, palms face-up. First, learn the chin nod: Take a breath in to prepare, then exhale to look down with your eyes. Gently nod the chin, keeping the head on your pillow, and avoiding any “cramming” with the neck muscles. Inhale to return to the start position. At first, this may feel clunky, but with practice, you will improve. You should not feel an increase in neck tension (especially in the front of the neck) if you do this properly. After you have practiced 2 sets of 5 nods, keep your head and neck in the neutral position as you sweep your arms outward and upward (as if you’re making a Snow Angel.) Go only as far as you can pain-free, and keep the arms straight and on the mat. When you can go no further with the arms, hold your position and try your chin nods again. You may be feeling an impressive stretch in the chest and/or arms, but there should be no pain, and breathing should be easy. After 5 nods, return the arms to your sides and repeat. Practice 1-2 sets of 5 snow angels. As this exercise becomes easier, you can do it while lying along a half foam roller or yoga mat. Just remember, you should not feel pain or strain anywhere, and the arms must stay straight and on the mat.
In addition to this exercise, I have 2 more tips for you: 1. Make sure your work station is set-up properly to encourage good posture. Not sure how to do that? Give us a call; we can help. 2. Do your best to hold your phone or tablet up so you don’t have to hold your head down to view it. A recent study revealed that looking down at a smart phone or tablet can place an additional 50 lbs of pressure onto your neck!
We have many other exercises we can teach you to alleviate the pain and strain associated with “Tech Neck,” but we’re hoping this sets you on the path to relief. If this exercise causes you discomfort, please discontinue it and consult a professional. This article is not meant to take the place of medical diagnosis or advice. For more information, or to set up a time to meet with a Medical Exercise Specialist about your postural concerns, email us at [email protected]. We look forward to helping you move better so you can move more.