What looks like a “normal work day” has changed drastically for many Australians over the past few years. As many as 40% of Australian managers and professionals are regularly working from home using makeshift home office setups rather than their height-adjustable work desks, dual monitors and ergonomic desk chairs. Given that between 42% and 63% of office workers struggle with neck pain each year, it is worth spending some time caring for our neck and overall health. Physiotherapists can certainly help prescribe individualised exercise programs, tailored to a person’s specific circumstances and symptoms, but there are a lot of exercises you can try yourself.
Neck movement exercises can help improve your range of motion, relieve tight muscles, improve circulation, and prevent stiffness from developing, particularly if you tend to sit for long periods of time. Here are five movement exercises you can try at home.
Note: these movements should not cause any pain or discomfort. If you feel any pain or discomfort or have any concerns, please stop immediately and consult with an experienced physiotherapist.
1. Sitting tall
This exercise is a good reminder of how simply sitting tall can help take the load off your neck.
- Make sure your feet are flat on the ground.
- Grow tall from your lower back and pelvic region – it is sometimes helpful to feel like you are rocking onto the front of your pelvic bones or gently raising your pelvic up from a slumped position.
- Gently draw your shoulder blades down and back.
- Gently lengthen the back of your neck.
- Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat frequently throughout the day.
2. Forwards and backwards bending
- Start from your “sitting tall” position.
- Look down and gently bring your chin towards your chest.
- Hold for 5 seconds and then return to the start position.
- Slowly roll your head and neck backwards to look up at the ceiling – only go as far as comfortable.
- Hold for 5 seconds and gently nod your chin and bring your head back to the upright position.
- Each movement should be done slowly.
- Repeat each movement 5-10 times.
- Start from your “sitting tall” position.
- Gently turn your head to the left and hold for 5 seconds.
- Make sure you are not hunching your shoulders or holding your breath.
- Then slowly turn to the right.
- With each repetition, try to go a little further.
- Repeat 5-10 times each side.
You can also do neck rotations with a towel:
- Get a hand or bath towel (we prefer bath towels to help you get more leverage on each side). On the side you’re going to turn into, shorten that length of the towel so there is less overhanging towel on that side.
- If the short part of the towel is on your left side, use your right hand to grab the left side of the towel, gently pull downwards, and use it as an anchor to hold firm.
- With your left hand, grab the opposite (long) end of the towel on the right side.
- Turn your head to the left side (the side with the shortest end of the towel)
- With your left arm, gently pull the towel across your neck, chin and ear for 5 seconds at a time to stretch these areas.
- Repeat on the other side.
4. Neck/trunk movement: archery exercise
- Pretend you are using a bow and arrow. Hold the bow in your outstretched arm, keep your eyes fixed on an imaginary target straight in front of you.
- Draw the bow string back concentrating on feeling the stretch across your upper back. Go as far as is possible and hold for a second or two.
- Now hold the bow in the opposite hand and repeat the exercise.
- Do the exercise alternating between sides for 5-10 repetitions.
Can Your Home Office Setup Really Contribute to Neck Pain?
Absolutely – and in many different ways. For example:
- Your chair can influence the way that pressure is distributed across your spine and up into your neck, as well as how your spine curves. It is important to find a chair that suits you, your structure and the tasks that you need to perform.
- If your computer screen is too far away, you may find that you push your neck forwards and slouch to see more clearly, which can fatigue and strain your neck muscles.
- Most people prefer their arms to be supported either on their chair or on their desk. Again, this depends on you and the tasks that you need to perform so try a few different options to find what works for you.
- Research has found that people who work from home are found to be significantly less physically active during their work day, as they have less opportunity to socialise with colleagues or walk between different work locations. These longer sitting times may result in more musculoskeletal pain.
Combat Neck Pain Alongside An Experienced Physiotherapist
If you’re struggling with neck pain and it’s interfering with your work and daily life, it may be time to book an appointment to work with a knowledgeable and trusted physiotherapist.
Your physio will pick up on things you may not be aware of, such as unconscious daily movements or postures that may be contributing to the symptoms you are experiencing, and/or be able to help you set up an ergonomic home office station. Having a physio on your team means they can answer any questions you have and provide you with the best care to enhance your overall neck, back and musculoskeletal health.
To book an appointment with one of our friendly physiotherapists, contact a clinic near you.