Stretch with Ain to counteract acute neck pain from sitting all day
Neck pain is not something new to desk-bound workers. When you spend extended amounts of time in a static position (hunched over a desk, for instance), your neck joints become stiff from the lack of movement, which can result in more serious symptoms like tension headaches, radiating pain and neck and shoulder swelling. In addition, if your arms are always extended in front of you, typing on a laptop, for example, and your deltoids aren’t strong enough to hold them up, your neck muscles may start overcompensating, resulting in tightness. Neck pain also often co-occurs with back pain because the back is too weak, deconditioned and stiff to properly support the neck. Stretching the neck and back introduces movement to the spine, releases built-up tension and strengthens it so it can better support our bodies. Together with physiotherapist and sports enthusiast Ain (@ainstaagraam.physio), we have compiled five simple stretches that can help ease acute neck pain from sitting all day.
What are you waiting for?
Rise, stretch and shine.
1. Stretch your: UPPER TRAPEZIUS
The upper trapezius is one of the upper back muscles that is attached from the base of the skull to the top of the shoulder blade. It is responsible for stabilizing the shoulder blades and facilitating shoulder and neck movement. The upper trapezius, in particular, helps in rotating and tilting the neck.
Start in a comfortable sitting, standing or kneeling position. Keep your shoulders down and chin tucked in (your chin should be in line with your shoulders).
Place your right hand on your lower back and your left hand on the right side of your head. This helps keep your right shoulder in place so you can deepen the stretch.
Slowly and gently flex your neck to the left side
Hold for 20 seconds. Do 3 sets.
Repeat on the other side.
TIP: If you’re stretching your left ear towards your left shoulder, it’s natural for your right shoulder to lift. If that happens, ease your head back towards the center until your right shoulder relaxes back down, and hold the stretch there]
2. Stretch your: SCALENES
The scalenes are accessory muscles in the neck that help keep the upper part of your spine upright. There are three muscle groups that make up the scalene muscles: the anterior scalenes, located at the front of the neck; the posterior scalenes, located at the back of the neck, and the middle scalenes, which are located between the anterior and posterior scalenes.
Start in a comfortable sitting, standing or kneeling position with your hands placed on the right side of your chest.
To stretch your right scalene, slowly and gently tilt your head towards your right shoulder, similar to the previous stretch. This stretches your right middle scalene muscles. Hold for 20 seconds.
From the position you were in in Step 2, slowly and gently rotate your head towards the left side such that you are looking over your left shoulder. This stretches your right posterior scalene muscles. Hold for 20 seconds.
After 20 seconds has passed, return back to the position you were in in Step 2, and then slowly and gently rotate your head towards the right side such that you are looking over your right shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds.
Repeat for the left scalene muscles.
3. Stretch your: PECTORALIS MINOR
The pectoralis minor is a thin, triangular muscle situated at the upper part of the chest. Spending extended amounts of time hunched over a desk can tighten the pectoralis minor, which causes rounded shoulders. As the shoulder blades are pulled forward, the neck also extends outwards, straining the joints in it and tightening the upper trapezius muscles.
Start in a comfortable sitting, standing or kneeling position with your hands interlocked behind your back. Relax your chest.
Roll your shoulders back and slowly and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together, allowing your chest to open up.
Gradually begin to raise your arms behind you, moving only as far as you can maintain an upright posture. Stop once you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for 20 seconds. Do 3 sets.
4. Stretch your: NECK, CHEST, BACK, SHOULDERS, ARMS, HIPS
Known as extended puppy pose, this is a basic yoga pose that is helpful for stretching the spine, shoulders and upper back, opening up the chest and hips and releasing tension in the upper arms, shoulders and neck.
Start on all fours in tabletop position, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and hips stacked over your knees. Your arms should be shoulder-width distance apart and your feet should be hip-width distance apart. Rest the tops of your feet on the ground, with your toes pointed backwards.
Slowly walk your hands out in front of you while dropping your chest to the ground. Allow your chest to melt down into the ground. You can rest your chest on a block if it doesn’t comfortably touch the ground. Ensure your hips are still stacked over your knees.
Lower your forehead on the ground.
Press down through the hands and stretch your arms while pulling your hips back towards the heels. Hold for 20 seconds. Do 3 sets.
To safely come out of this pose, walk your hands back towards yourself and lift yourself back to tabletop position.
5. Stretch your: NECK, BACK, HIPS, THIGHS, ANKLES
Known as child’s pose in yoga, this is a resting pose that gently stretches the neck, back, hips, thighs and ankles. Your spine gets a deep stretch that works against the compressive forces of sitting or standing all day in this pose.
Start on all fours in a tabletop position, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees.
Push your hips back such that your belly is resting in between your thighs.
Lower your forehead on the ground. If your forehead cannot comfortably touch the ground, rest it on a block or stacked fists.
Stretch your arms out in front of you with your palms resting on the ground. Hold for 20 seconds. Do 3 sets.