Your neck never gets a day off. It’s there 24/7, doing the all-important job of holding your head up. And our technology-focused ways haven’t made that job any easier.
It’s not uncommon for people to spend a big chunk of time with their head and shoulders slumped forward, staring at a computer or smartphone screen, says Jake Bleacher, P.T., a physical therapist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
This creates constant tension in the muscles in the back of the neck and upper back, he says. Over time, that tension can lead to painful changes like degenerative disc disease, where your spinal discs actually start to break down, as well as headaches, pinched nerves, and even shoulder pain.
So that’s the bad news. The good news: A simple stretching routine may be all you need to relieve or prevent neck pain.
“Stretching the neck really helps decrease those areas of tension that cause the headaches and stiffness in the joints,” Bleacher says.
In fact, a 2015 study published in Clinical Rehabilitation found that when office workers with chronic neck and shoulder pain performed a simple stretching routine for four weeks, they experienced significant improvements in neck function and quality of life.
Try these simple stretches from Bleacher to prevent neck pain from happening in the first place or to ease the tension if you’re feeling pain.