Physical therapy exercises for tech neck treatment

Posted on 10/18/2021

Technology has brought many wonderful things to our fingertips. However, an undue side effect of all this technology and connectivity is a condition known as tech neck.

If you have a stiff neck, experience headaches or feel frequent muscle tension around your neck and shoulders, your technology-using habits are likely a contributing factor. Physical therapy exercises can help to alleviate your pain.

Many suffer unnecessary pain due to poor posture when using a computer, tablet or smartphone. Poor posture greatly increases the amount of pressure placed on your muscles. Sitting straight up, the weight of your head is 10-12 pounds. Slouching forward with head dropped down, the weight of your head is more like 50-60 pounds to your neck. It’s easy to understand why your muscles are hurting when you imagine them supporting five times more weight for several hours each day.

If you’re suffering from tech neck, the good news is that it’s often reversible and treatable. Here are five strengthening and stretching exercises to combat it:

Chin retraction

You may often find yourself sitting slouched forward with your head well in front of your shoulders. This is the starting position for retracting your head.

Pull your chin backward while looking directly forward. You should feel a “double-chin” forming under your jaw. Repeat this forward/backward exercise 10 times once every hour or two while working.

Perform this daily while sitting at your work space.

Trap stretch

What about neck exercises for computer or laptop users? Tension in the upper trapezius muscles, which span the back of the neck and shoulders and are responsible for moving the head and shoulder blade, is common. The trap stretch can be performed any time, and you only need 20-30 seconds to help release tension on one side of your neck.

To stretch the right side, place your right hand on your waist or lower back, tilt your head to the left while looking back to the right. Place your left hand on top of your head and gently pull toward the left until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold this stretch for as long as 60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Perform this daily while sitting at your work space.

Thoracic extension

Lean forward in your chair as if you’re smashing a pillow between your belly and thighs. Place your hands with fingers crossed behind your head.

Reach your elbows toward the ceiling while keeping your belly close to your thighs, causing only your upper back to straighten. The thoracic extension reverses the forward bend and slouchy posture so many assume throughout the workday.

Perform this daily while sitting at your work space.

Prone retraction

Lie face down on the floor with your arms at your side, hands near the hips.

Keep your neck straight (do not look upward) and simultaneously lift your chin, arms and knees off the ground. Hold the position for 2-3 seconds and release to the floor. Repeat 10 times for three sets.

Perform this exercise  2-3 days each week to promote strengthening of the muscles across the back of your neck, shoulders and torso.

Prone scaption

Lie face down on the floor with your arms reaching upward and slightly outward from your head.

Keep your neck straight and simultaneously lift your chin, arms and knees off the ground. Hold the position for 2-3 seconds and release to the floor. Repeat 10 times for three sets.

This exercise emphasizes the lower trapezius muscle between your shoulder blades due to the overhead arm position. The prone scaption should be performed 2-3 days each week to promote strengthening of the muscles across the back of your neck, shoulders and torso.

Finally, sit up straight. It’s not a complicated tip, but it is easy to forget that we need to maintain good posture when working with technology. Elevate your computer screen so that it is at eye level. If you’re working on a laptop, generally you’ll have to direct your gaze downward while keeping your posture upright, but do your best to comfortably elevate the computer. If you’re on a phone/tablet, simply make an effort to hold the device higher in front of your face.

If you have pain that persists and is impacting your daily activities, contact us today to request an appointment with a licensed physical therapist. A physical therapy plan of care can efficiently and effectively strengthen your body, reduce pain and prevent injury.

By: Joe Zucco, P.T., DPT, FAAOMPT, center manager for Select Physical Therapy in Sarasota, FL.

Select Physical Therapy and RUSH Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.