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How to Relieve and Prevent Tech Neck Pain, According to Experts

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Your neck and spine alignment is ideal when you’re sitting down in a slightly-reclined position with your neck totally relaxed against a headrest, Dr. Anderer says. (Picture yourself lounging in a comfy La-Z-Boy chair). Another decent option is to boost yourself into an upright position so that your head and neck are directly above your shoulders and spine, Kathy Doubleday, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist and clinical director of the online physiotherapy provider Physio Ed, tells SELF. If you sit most of the day, you can easily do this by putting a 1.5- or 2-inch wedge cushion under the back of your butt or adjusting your desk chair, if you can, so it tilts forward a bit. “This rocks you forward and helps you to automatically sit taller,” which softens the stress on your neck, Dr. Doubleday says. (Just tried this and I already feel better.) 

Take active breaks (as many as you can).

Because it’s unlikely we’re all going to suddenly live screen-free, one of the best ways to alleviate tech neck, according to Dr. Anderer, is to break out of that stagnant position you fall into while using your phone or laptop. Translation: Move your body! Getting out of your chair (and resisting the urge to look down at your phone while doing so) for anywhere from 20 seconds to five minutes at a time can reduce pain, discomfort, and fatigue in your neck, per the 2021 research above.

If you can squeeze a short walk in, even better. A 2020 study in the Journal of Occupational Health found that when people at risk for neck pain went on more walks—even short, 10-minute or 1,000-step strolls—they were way less likely to have neck and shoulder issues. 

How frequent should these breaks be? There’s no magic, research-backed number: “Honestly, it’s as frequent as you can take breaks for and for as long as you can take them,” Dr. Anderer says. In general, the more you can move around without your phone in hand, the better.

Give your neck a good stretch.

If you have a hard time getting away from a screen (you have a demanding desk job, for example), try practicing some light neck stretches throughout your day—this can get your blood moving and keep the joints and tissues in your neck healthy, Dr. Anderer explains. You want to do “light range of motion exercises,” he says. Neck rolls (tilt and roll your head in a circle) are a great option, as are light-resistance exercises (like putting your hand against the back, front, or side of your head and pushing against your hand). 

Another good move for neck strain that’s on Dr. Doubleday’s list: the winged arm exercise, a.k.a. the open book (which she demonstrates here). This opens up your chest and stretches the muscles that keep your shoulders and head together, she says. And for more options (with helpful visual aids), check out SELF’s round-up of tension-relieving tech neck exercises. 

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Research has shown that people who regularly stretch out their necks can feel big improvements in their pain. “If you’re able to do that at least once a day, that’ll actually be very preventative for developing tech neck,” Dr. Anderer says. You only need to set aside two minutes a day, at the very least, to feel some improvement—and the longer (and more often) you stretch, the more relief you’ll get, he adds. 

Strengthen your shoulders and neck.

Finally, it can be helpful to strengthen the muscles that support your head, shoulders, and neck so that when you are chained to your desk or can’t quit doomscrolling, you won’t be in constant pain. Aside from shoulder-focused moves like these, Dr. Anderer also recommends total-body,  core-building workouts like yoga, Pilates, and swimming so the muscles surrounding your spine (which, yes, count as part of your core) can carry more of the force that usually falls predominantly on your neck. 

Source: Self

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