If you are like most of us, you probably spend the majority of your day staring at a screen. Whether you are completing the work day from your laptop or catching up with what your friends are posting on social media, technology is undoubtedly a part of our everyday lives. You may even be reading this from a smartphone or tablet right now. Unfortunately, this modern lifestyle comes with consequences to our neck, back, and posture by the way that we tilt our head as we scroll, tap, and type. You may find yourself having increased aches, pains, and stiffness as a result. As we continue to rely more heavily on technology for work, school, entertainment, and more, we put our bodies at greater risk for pain and discomfort. Doctors have created a term for the effects of our modern lifestyle called “tech neck.”
Tech neck primarily occurs when our posture in our upper back and shoulders becomes rounded forward as our arms are in front of our body for an extended period of time and our posture is unsupported. The stress of an approaching deadline or big meeting can make things worse as our body becomes tense. Another common sign of tech neck is frequent headaches with pain radiating from behind the eyes. Our neck is unable to support our weight as the neck’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments are only meant to support 10 to 12 pounds, the weight of our head in a balanced, neutral position. When texting, facetiming, or using social media, we often bend our head forward and look downwards at a 45 to 60 degree angle, placing about 50 to 60 pounds of force on our neck which is the average weight of a bag of potatoes!
One way to combat tech neck and alleviate some of the pain and tension associated with our technology-packed lives is through Pilates exercises and stretches. Many of these exercises you can even complete right from your desk. These stretches and exercises will help you to ease the tension of muscles and nerves, giving you effective relief while strengthening the muscles responsible for improving our posture.
Here are a few exercises you can try at home:
Seated tall in a chair with your hands underneath you, tilt your head from one side to the other touching your ear to your shoulder. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 3-5 times a day to relieve neck tension.
In a standing position, tuck your chin inward, holding for 10 seconds and repeating 5 times. Avoid looking downwards as you complete this exercise. Doing this twice a day can reverse the curvature of your upper back caused by tech neck.
Sitting up tall and placing your hands behind your head, reach your upper back, shoulders, and head over the top of the chair. Keep your core engaged and your shoulders down and away from your ears as you complete this exercise. This is best completed in a chair that is lower than shoulder height and repeated 3-4 times, holding for just one breath.
Sitting up with your shoulders back, extend your head backwards, looking up at the ceiling. Apply pressure to your forehead by pressing down and holding for 20 seconds. Repeating this 5 times, twice a day can improve your neck’s range of motion.
In a standing position, place your hand against a wall just below shoulder height with your arm straightened. Turn your body and shoulders away from your hand until you feel a stretch across your chest. To stretch different parts of your chest, slightly adjust the position of your hand on the wall. Hold for 10-15 seconds on each side.
In a seated position, place your hands and forearms on your desk with your fingers facing forward. Sitting up tall with your core engaged and your arms remaining in place, pull your elbows back while simultaneously opening your shoulders and lifting your breastbone to the ceiling. Your upper back should slightly arch to allow your shoulder muscles to work. Repeat this 10-12 times holding each for one breath.
This series stretches the front of your shoulders, pecs, biceps, and forearms.
Standing in a doorway, position yourself about two feet from the frame with your pelvis, upper spine, and back of your head touching the door jamb. Reaching your arms forward at shoulder height and keeping your palms down, bend your elbows and hold for 60 seconds. Repeating this 3 to 4 times a day can work your middle-back muscles between your shoulder blades as well as your spine, resulting in improved posture.
In a standing or seated position, place one hand on top of the other and both hands on the back of your head. Gently press your head backwards, keeping your eyes forward and bending back your upper torso slightly. Hold for 30 seconds. This exercise will help your muscles be more proactive in holding your posture.
Lying on your stomach with your feet hip-distance apart, stack your hands in front of you keeping your elbows bent, and place your forehead on your stacked hands. Engage your abdominal muscles to lift your shoulder blades, hands, and head one inch and hold for 30 seconds. This exercise will help in strengthening your core muscles.
To learn more about how to help alleviate the pain and tension associated with tech neck through pilates practice, visit us at Sunset Beach Pilates.