Neck and back pain affects millions. If you’re serious about fixing it, it’s essential to address the underlying cause.
What’s the Underlying Cause?
Most people only get the chance to train an hour per day three times per week, and about 80 percent have jobs where they’re sitting for eight hours a day. To compound this problem, most spend three hours on their phone and two to three hours watching TV each day (1,2).
When you sit in a slumped position, you’re placing uneven compression on your discs, placing more pressure on the front aspect than the back. You’re allowing certain muscles like the upper traps, pecs, lower spinal erectors, and hip flexors to become shortened and “tight” while allowing other muscles like your neck flexors, upper-back musculature, abs, and glutes to become weak and excessively lengthened or “taut.”
This will lead to problems such as lower cross syndrome (characterized by an anterior pelvic tilt) or upper crossed syndrome (characterized by rounded shoulders and a forward head position).
The Fix: Step 1
It’s tough to counteract 85 hours of slouched sitting with only a few hours per week of training. As basic as it sounds, step one should be fixing your posture, followed by getting up and moving as often as possible throughout the day.
Sitting up straight and getting up every 15 to 30 minutes for a quick walk down the hallway will go a long way toward getting you out of pain.
The Fix: Step 2
If you’re working in an office, a few basic stretches and exercises can help restore your posture and diminish your pain. Focus on stretching or “lengthening” the upper traps, lats, pecs, and hip flexors, and strengthening the deep flexors of the neck, upper back, abs, and glutes. All you need is a band and a foam roller.
Stretching or “Lengthening” Exercises
Upper Traps and Neck – Head Tilts
Reach behind your back to grab your left wrist with your right hand. Pull down on your left wrist to depress your shoulder. Slowly tilt your head toward your right shoulder. Feel a stretch run through the left side of your neck.
Gently drop your chin down towards your chest. Feel a stretch run through the back part of your neck on the left side. Slowly extend your neck by looking up. This will create a stretch on the front left side of your neck. Repeat on the other side.
Pecs – Foam Roller Pec Stretch
Lie on a foam roller that’s positioned vertically below your torso so that your head, mid-back, and tailbone are all in contact with it. Take your arms out to the sides with your palms facing the ceiling. Make a “T” with your body and arms.
Gently roll toward your left side and hold this position. This will elicit a stretch in the
pecs/anterior delts on the right side of your body. Repeat on the other side.
Pecs and Lats – Lying Overhead Reach
Lie on a foam roller so that your head, mid-back, and tailbone are all in contact with the roller. Hold a resistance band with your grip at about shoulder width.
As you reach your arms overhead, don’t flair your ribcage or arch your lower back. Do your reps with both palms overhand (pronated) and palms underhand (supinated).
Lats/Upper Back – Child’s Pose
Begin on your knees with your hands outstretched in front. Make a “V” with the toes of each foot pointing in. Gently push yourself back into your hips. Feel your hips open and your torso lengthen.
Take deep breaths, filling your abdomen and upper chest with air, followed by long slow exhalations. Think of gently extending or “softening” through your upper back (thoracic spine) as you hold this position.
Hip Flexors – Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Begin in a single-leg kneeling position with your left knee on the ground. Engage your core by drawing your abdomen inward. Tilt your pelvis back to create a posterior pelvic tilt.
Gently extend your left hip and reach your left arm up by your ear and across your body so that you laterally flex towards your right side. Repeat on the other side.
Anterior Neck Muscles – Isometric Head Hold
Lie on a foam roller so that your head is off the roller, but your glutes and mid-back are in contact with it. Hold your head in the air as you tuck or “retract” your chin so that it looks like you’re making a double chin. Hold for about 20 seconds.
Upper Back – Band Pull-Aparts
Grab a resistance band with your hands at shoulder-width. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you stretch the band, pulling it toward your chest. Don’t overarch your back. Do reps with your palms both over and under.
Core – Dead Bug
Lie on your back with your arms straight up, and your knees bent to 90 degrees. While keeping your core tight, reach your right hand back and left leg out.
Hold for 1-3 seconds without arching your lower back. Return to the start position. Repeat on the opposite side.
Glutes – Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Putting It All Together
Use this quick routine two times per day while on your breaks at work. Doing this frequently throughout the day is actually not too time-consuming, and it’d go a long way toward addressing your pain.
|Head Tilts||1×5 each|
|Foam Roller Pec Stretch||1×20 seconds each|
|Lying Overhead Reach||1×10 each|
|Child’s Pose||1×20 seconds|
|Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch||1×20 seconds each|
|Isometric Head Hold||1×20 seconds|
|Band Pull Aparts||1×10 each|
|Dead Bug||1×10 each|
|Single-Leg Glute Bridge||1×10 each|
- Television, capturing America’s attention at prime time and Beyond : Beyond the numbers. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2021, from www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-7/television-capturing-americas-attention.htm
- Spajic, D. (2020, December 14). How much time does the average person spend on their phone? Retrieved May 03, 2021, from kommandotech.com/statistics/how-much-time-does-the-average-person-spend-on-their-phone