Being in pain can cause significant disturbances to our sleep, leaving us restless, uncomfortable and frustrated throughout the night. It’s an awful Catch 22, given that having a good nights’ sleep is recommended to help relieve pain and promote healing and repair. With adequate sleep being an important part of the overall holistic bigger picture when it comes to recovering from pain and injury, here’s a look into the connection between sleep and pain, and what practical steps you can start implementing at home today to improve your sleep quality.Read more
In 2020, the World Health Organisation made notable updates to their exercise guidelines. These updates included increasing the recommendations for both the amount of exercise performed each week, as well as adding strength or resistance training such as push-ups or squats to the regimen. Unfortunately, under these guidelines, it was found that 85% of Australian adults and 80% of children were not meeting their exercise targets.Read more
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.
Looking down at your phone regularly throughout the day can become a literal pain in the neck. Long periods spent hunched over to reply to email, read a text message or browse the internet may contribute to neck pain, sometimes colloquially referred to as “text” or “tech” neck. This kind of neck pain is reported by more than one in two teenagers and university students, and up to 63% of office workers struggle with neck pain annually.
Prolonged screen time, particularly the way our head and neck are positioned while we engage with our digital devices, is contributing to more than just neck pain. Other clinical features may include headaches, back and shoulder pain, eye strain, dry eyes and other musculoskeletal pains. The effects aren’t solely physical either – “text neck” is also associated with irritability, stress, anxiety and poor communication in school children and adolescents.
Neck pain is very common and, as physiotherapists, we will assess and devise an individualised treatment plan most suitable to your specific presentation. There is evidence to support the use of exercise therapy for some people with neck pain. Today, we look a little deeper into what “text neck” refers to, why it happens, how to spot it and share five examples of exercises that may help manage neck pain.
What Is “Text Neck”?
In some people, holding your head forward and downward for extended periods of time can lead to neck pain. “Text neck” refers to pain experienced when you have your neck forwards using devices such as smartphones or tablets.
When your head is upright and looking straight ahead, your neck muscles are only working to support the weight of your head, which is 4.5 – 5.5kgs. At a 15 degree angle, this increases to 12kgs. At a 30 degree angle, your neck muscles must work hard to support over 18kgs. At 45 degrees, the weight that needs to be supported is over 22kgs. Finally, if you’re staring down at 60 degrees, that’s over 27kgs of force on your neck muscles.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of “Text Neck”?
The symptoms of “text neck” may include:
- Nagging or sharp pain in the neck or shoulders at the end of the day
- Postural fatigue, or finding it difficult to maintain a healthy posture
- Upper back or neck pain
- General shoulder pain and tightness,
- Constantly holding the head and neck forwards
- Headaches that are made worse when looking down or using the computer.
Exercises To Help
Even though you may not be able to completely eliminate looking down at your phone, there are exercises you can perform that will help relieve some of the tension placed on your neck and back. Generally, we recommend performing the movement sets one to three times a day alongside the support and guidance of a trusted physio who tailors each program to your specific symptoms, circumstances and the results of your comprehensive assessment with us. Here are five examples:
1. Chin Tucks
Chin tucks help to reset the movements that occur when you crane your neck forward towards a screen. Chin tucks can help improve posture and move the head closer to a neutral position, with the ears directly over the shoulders:
- Start by sitting or standing upright while focusing your vision at a specific point across the room.
- Place your index finger on your chin, to help guide your movements.
- Gently move your head back in a purely horizontal fashion so that you tuck your chin backwards against your neck. The motion should create a double chin while you continue to look straight ahead, and not result in your head tilting down to look at your toes.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
2. Neck mobility exercises
To limit the prolonged position of your neck being flexed, it may be helpful to move your neck regularly.
- Sit upright on a chair or stand comfortably with your shoulders relaxed.
- Move your head through a comfortable, pain free range:
- Looking down
- Looking up towards the ceiling bending your neck backwards
- Rotating your head to the right and left
- Tilting your head to the right and left
3. Shoulder Scapular Squeeze
This exercise helps to open up your chest, and activate some of your shoulder blade muscles.
- Sit or stand with your hands clasped behind your head or behind your lower back.
- Open your elbows out to the side and squeeze your shoulder blades back, to feel a stretch in the front of your chest.
- To intensify the stretch, pull your head and shoulders down and backward – continue to look forward, and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
- Hold 10-20 seconds and then slowly release, and repeat three times.
4. Trap Stretches
This exercise helps to relieve tension in the trapezius muscles which span the back of the neck and shoulders, and are responsible for moving and rotating your shoulder blade and extending your neck:
- Look straight ahead, and place your left hand under your thigh, on your chair, to prevent your left shoulder from lifting
- Lift up your right arm and wrap your hand over your head, while tipping your right ear towards your right shoulder. Do not let your left shoulder rise up as you tip your head to the right.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat the exercise on the opposite side, and repeat for 3 times on each side – even if you only have pain on one side.
5. Thoracic Extension
This exercise helps to mobilise the joints of your upper back.
- Sit on a chair with both feet placed on the floor.
- Lift up your arms and place your hands behind your head, with fingers linked together.
- Gently lean forwards in your chair, lowering your stomach towards your thighs, while maintaining a straight back.
- Reach your elbows upwards while tilting your head to look towards the ceiling, while keeping your stomach close to your thighs, curving only your upper back.
- Hold the extension for 5-10 seconds, then slowly release, and repeat 3 times.
Preventing “Text Neck”
Preventing “text neck” starts with the conscious effort to stop leaning the head forward and downward. Limiting your screen time is a great start, but we know this isn’t always possible. When using a digital device:
- Keep it at eye level. You can place some books under your computer screen to bring it closer to eye level, and when you’re using a smartphone, hold it up to your eye height. If you need to be looking down, do so with your eyes, instead of your head.
- Take breaks often. Take 5 minutes every 25 minutes to take a break from the screen, stretch, rest your eyes, and evaluate your posture.
When To See A Physio
If you’re struggling with neck pain from using your computer or smartphone, it may be time to book an appointment with a physiotherapist to help you develop an individualised treatment plan that aims to improve pain and prevent recurrences.
Your physio will carry out a comprehensive assessment, address any underlying conditions, and create a targeted and comprehensive treatment plan to address text neck and protect your overall neck, back and spine health. Having a physio on your team means that they can also support you with targeted manual therapies such as soft tissue massage to enhance your outcomes, answer any questions about your pain to keep you fully supported, 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.
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