Exercises to Avoid a Stiff Neck

Work from home, online appointments is the way of life currently. How is that working out for all? 

While shelter in place has caused less traffic and overall less crowds outside, Chaos is in the house. Kids at home, parents trying to work from home (TRYING in every way possible) and cleaning everything million times a day. Sounds right?

Some people may have established a good home office. Remember Ergonomics. A good height table, A chair that maintains your hip and knee at 90-90 angle, Table that allows about 90o flexion at elbows and so on and so forth.


Now let’s get real. Parents with little ones and working from home may not be able to follow all the ergonomics, can they? And if you can and have been, that’s amazing. Scene at my house used to look like this- A desk set up in the office/guest bedroom, kids playing in the family room. Husband has a meeting to attend (well, multiple meetings the whole morning) while I leave the house for work, and the 1 year old just wants to be held ALL THE TIME. 5 year old wants math problems ALL THE TIME. Let’s talk about my Husband’s ergonomics- Him standing most of the time with 1 year old in his arms pointing at the snack cabinet constantly, laptop on kitchen counter (out of reach from the kids), him hunching down to look at the screen and typing with one hand when needed. And the Physical therapist in me just lets out a silent screammmmm.  

We moved the desk out in the family room for him to have  a decent workstation and still be around the kids, but it’s far from ergonomically efficient. Its work in progress.

Shelter in place may last longer than expected. While everyone would like to have an ergonomically perfect workplace, some of us might not get all points checked in the ergonomics list.

The best thing to do is to MOVE. If you are sitting for an hour, stand up. If you are standing for a long time, walk around. Stretching your neck and upper back muscles frequently can help minimize muscular injuries due to makeshift work space problems. Some simple exercises to perform throughout the day, especially when you take brain breaks.

  1. Chin tucks- upper neck stretch
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Slowly draw your head back, creating a double chin. Hold for 3-seconds, release. Repeat 5-10 times. Avoid tipping head down.

  1. Neck side stretch- upper trapezius stretch
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Gently grasp the right side of head with left hand (only 2-3 fingertips are enough), while reaching behind back with right hand. Tilt head away until a gentle stretch is felt. Hold 30 seconds. 1-2 times on both sides. Do not turn your head, only tilt sideways.

  1. Neck extension with towel, Rotations
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Extension– Place a rolled up towel around the back of your neck, holding both ends with your hands. Pull your head back slightly and extend your head up looking at the ceiling. Gently pull the towel at the back of your neck. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.

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Rotations– Turn your head to one side, chin to shoulder and slowly to the other side. Don’t cheat and bend backwards or sideways. That could mean tightness/problems of your lower cervical spine. Repeat each exercise 5-10 times.

  1. Corner Stretch- It’s your turn for a timeout

Standing at a corner of a wall, place your arms on the walls with elbows bent so that your upper arms are horizontal and your forearms are directed upwards. Elbows in line with shoulder or slightly below shoulders. Take one step forward towards the corner. Bend your front knee and gently lean into the corner until a stretch is felt along the front of your chest and/or shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat twice if time permits.

 Bathroom break? Perfect time to do this stretch, since a bathroom corner is usually free of any wall hangings. Oh, and wash your hands again 😉

  1. Open Book Stretch

Lie down on one side with both knees bent up towards the chest at a 90 degree angle. Open up the top arm and reach back until you feel a stretch, forming a “T” shape with your arms. Hold for 5 seconds then close back. Follow your arm with your head as you open and close. Do not lift the knee up and avoid twisting your pelvis. Perform 5-10 reps. Repeat on the other side as well.

  1. Mid back stretch and counter chest and biceps stretch
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Interlace your fingers and then draw your hands forwards until a stretch is felt along your upper back. You can vary the angle of your arms downward to stretch different muscle fibers along your back. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 2 times.

Lace fingers behind back and squeeze shoulder blades together. Slowly raise and straighten arms. Hold 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times.

Keep working on setting up a good workstation with available resources. Posture is important. As we say, “Look less like a comma, more like an exclamation mark!”

Let not this lockdown, lock up your joints and muscles. Few simple exercises for your spine health. You might feel mild discomfort/stretching with these. If you feel pain with any of the exercises, please STOP. It’s time for a healthy discussion with a Physical therapist. 

And please feel free to continue these stretches in a Covid-19 free world and the comforts of your real office space. 

Stay Tuned for more tips!!

4 thoughts on “Exercises to Avoid a Stiff Neck

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