Current lifestyle trends, including looking down at cell phones, laptops, and tablets can cause an increase in neck stiffness and pain. When we bend our heads forward to look at screens of any kind, there is an increase in weight and pressure applied to our cervical spine. Over time, this can cause long term problems. It is more important than ever to take care of your neck now, to avoid problems in the future.
Here at Advanced Care Specialists, we can help you take steps to understand the importance of postural awareness and teach you exercises to maintain neck range of motion and strength. My favorite exercises for decreasing neck pain are listed below.
Upper trapezius stretching– Sit tall with upright posture. Hold onto the seat of your chair with one hand and place the other hand on your head to assist in the stretch. Tilt your head to the side away from the arm holding the seat of the chair, bringing your ear toward your shoulder. Keep looking straight ahead. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat three times for each side.
Levator scapulae stretch-Sit tall. Turn your head to the left, and then look down. You can apply gentle pressure to the top of your head to increase the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat three times for each side.
Chin tuck-Sit tall with good posture. Make sure your chin is level and that your head is not tilted back. Place two fingers on your chin and draw your head backwards. Keep looking straight ahead. Often, we tell patients to make a double chin. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat ten times. This exercise can be performed lying down on your back, sitting, or standing.
When completing a postural assessment, our rehab team at ACS often sees forward, rounded shoulders in patients who have neck pain. It is important to also work on improving scapular stability to help improve posture and decrease neck pain.
A beginner exercise to improve scapular muscle strength is scapular retraction.
Scapular retraction– Bring your shoulders down and back while keeping your arms at your sides. Avoid raising your shoulders toward your ears. You should feel the muscles tighten between your shoulder blades. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat ten times. This exercise can be performed lying on your back, sitting, or standing.
These are just a few exercises that can help improve posture and decrease neck pain. If you are experiencing neck pain, our team at ACS, which is located in Racine, Wisconsin, can help determine the cause and create an individualized treatment plan to help decrease your symptoms and teach you strategies to avoid future problems with your neck.
Theresa Schwer PTA