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Relieve Neck Pain From Sitting (Or, Better, Don’t Get It In The First Place)

Relieve Neck Pain From Sitting (Or, Better, Don’t Get It In The First Place)

In the end of this I’ll give you movements to loosen up stiff neck, but let’s start at the root level. Have a proper set up for working from home so you’ll get minimal neck pain in the first place.

By now you likely know what an ergonomic desk set up looks like for us, the greatest of them all hominids (and, I say, the only ones needing to adhere to an ergonomic desk set up), humans.

Here’s how to sit:

Be like this guy.
  • Straight spine all the way from your hips to the back of your skull.
  • Upper arms vertical.
  • Elbows at 90 degrees.
  • Hands resting on the keyboard.
  • Head and eyes looking straight ahead.
  • If you use a laptop, either prop the screen to eye level and get a separate keyboard. Or, keep the laptop for keyboard use and get a separate monitor (this is what I do).

And here are few things to remember as you’re pounding away the keyboard, stressed out of your mind for the impending deadline:

  • Don’t make the chicken neck inching your forehead ever closer to the screen.
  • I suggest sticking a post-it note on the side of your screen saying “don’t be a chicken”.

As in, don’t be this guy:

Loser chicken bound for neck-pain train.

And we should talk briefly about breathing

It’s common to breath like an un-human when neck deep in focus mode. And guess what. Breathing like an un-human is not that good for you when your goal is to be as much human as possible.

Here’s how to breath like a human:

  • Focus on inhaling into your ribs, hips and even low back. Not into your neck and shoulders. If your shoulders raise with each inhale you’re on a train bound for neck and shoulder stiffness.
  • Inhale and exhale through your nose only. Gag your mouth shut if necessary. You can’t get the diaphragm to do it’s work with mouth breathing.
  • On that earlier post-it note add “breath like a human.”

Adventurous anti-sitting options for the enthusiastic worker

Try half kneeling and kneeling positions. I often alternate between these two to stop my hip flexors, low back and consequently neck, feel like I’ve been cursed by some evil, hip stiffness shaman from Brazil.

Chairless working for the alternatively minded.

Already being an ergonomic being, but still needing some neck love?

Here are few simple movements you can do at the comfort of your home. This combination will help to reduce the neck tension and strengthen your upper back.

Neck, upper back and shoulder rotations (first three in this video)
x 2-3 rotation in each direction.

Bonus points if you can mimic my somewhat creepy-zen like facial expressions.

Swimmers in tall kneeling
x 2-5 in each direction.

Avoid any position if it aggravates your neck. Keep upper back (and the rest of the body) tight throughout the movement. It should feel like the tension moves from the neck to the muscles of your upper back. In other words, this movement should feel dope. And definitely not awful.

Naked batwings (on the floor or against a wall)
x 1 max hold x 2-3

Tense up the whole body like doing a high-tension plank. Then try to lift yourself off the floor by driving elbows into the ground. Because you’re like Scrooge McDuck (super-tight) it’s impossible to move anywhere. Upper back is working like crazy though.

Did I just make you feel better?

Exercises to Relieve Back Pain from Sitting

Exercises to Relieve Back Pain from Sitting

Moving the hips is one of the best medicines for low back pain from excessive sitting. Ideally served in short bursts throughout the day.

The obstacle I run into with clients is that as great as it sounds in theory, it’s impossible for them to do in their office. Either they feel goofy doing them (fair), or their attire makes it impossible. And I get it. Fancy Italian suits and skirts are less than optimal for exercise in public spaces.

Working from home removes this issue. You can get off the computer and out of the sight of your webcam to get a dose of the movement medicine. Besides, most of us working from home are probably not even wearing fancy clothes. I for one can’t even remember what pants look like.

In a perfect world, you’d do a set of each exercise every few hours. But we both know that won’t happen. Instead, do a one set of one movement. Rotate them throughout the day.

Controlled hip rotations x 3 each way

As big circle as you can without twisting your hips. Think of balancing a glass of midday Scotch on your low back. Stay out of any painful range. You could do the whole sequence, but hips are the most important for our low back pain purposes.

Hip external rotation kinetic stretch x 5

Actively pull chest to knee on the way down. Actively drive the knee to ground on the way up. Push chest forward at all times to avoid moving from your low back. Keep hands on the ground if necessary.

Hip bridge x 10

Drive tailbone to knees, keep ribs to hips, and use your butt to crack a walnut. Or any other nut of your choice. Do a powerful exhale at the top to get the core going.