Tech Neck Re-set

My niece, Katie, has a job that requires her to be in front of her computer for 8-12 hours each day. Yikes. A few weeks ago, she messaged me to ask for some stretches for her neck, shoulders and upper back. When I questioned her further and learned more about her job, I realized she is a prime candidate for that newly named syndrome, “tech neck”. This refers to the pain and strain that comes with frequent use of technology, most of which puts our bodies into a head-down, shoulders-forward, rounded-upper-back position, often for many hours each day.

This position forces the muscles in the neck and upper back to work hard to support our (heavy!) heads in front of the body (rather than stacked vertically atop the spine in posture your mom would admire), which creates tension in those muscles. The tendency is to want to “stretch” those muscles to relieve tension, and that may work, or at least feel good. So go ahead and try a stretch like eagle pose (do the arms only).

But something else is happening when we use tech for long periods: that same rounding of the shoulders and the slumping posture that often follows leave the chest muscles tight, which constricts breathing in the short term and can leave the rib cage chronically constricted over the long term. And breathing is important, so….

Here is my favorite antidote to tech neck, which several of my students use for savasana. All you need is thick beach towels and as little as 5-10 minutes per day.

  1. Roll 2-3 large beach towels into a tight, dense column. The finished product should be 3-4 feet long (long enough for your entire torso and head to be supported) and 4-6 inches in diameter (in this case, height).

Cannoli 1Cannoli 2

  1. Sit on the very end of the roll and slowly recline, stretching your spine along the length of the roll, making sure your hips and head are both on the roll.

Cannoli 3

  1. I prefer knees bent, so that entire length of spine (including the low back) is touching the roll. This gentle pressure on the spine sends a calming message to the central nervous system.

Cannoli 4

  1. However, you may prefer to extend your legs straight.

Cannoli 5

  1. Relax your arms out to the sides in a T position and let gravity slowly release your shoulders toward the floor on either side of the roll. This is a passive chest opener, and will also let those tense muscles in your neck and upper back soften, since the head is perfectly aligned with the spine.
  1. For a deeper chest stretch, bend your elbows into “cactus” position.

Cannoli 6

  1. Relax in this restorative pose for 5-10 minutes at first, adding more time after a few days if it feels good and seems to be helping.
  1. As always, feel free to contact me with questions!


Categories: Uncategorized