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My Top 5 Neck Exercises For Computer Related Sports Injuries

Updated: Nov 5

The media has recently done a very good job of informing (terrifying) us of the negative effects sitting in front of a computer can have on our health. At SIP, we often find that a patient’s job can contribute to their ‘sports injuries’. In this article I share some simple neck exercises that I find most effective to treat or prevent neck pain during exercise.



A prime example of this is when a person develops shoulder or neck pain while swimming, playing tennis or running, the cause of which can be traced back to the rounded shoulder or forward head posture that they have developed while working on their computer.



Does the picture above look familiar? This is the posture most of us assume when we are sitting too far from our computer, sitting for too long (your muscles get tired and can’t keep you up) or if you are struggling to see (get your eyes tested).


The problem with this posture is that the muscles at the back of your neck and front of your shoulders become tight. You also compress your facet joints in your neck and upper back while you over-stretch the joints and ligaments in your mid back. This can not only lead to neck and back pain, but can also cause shoulder impingement and pain during sport.


Try it for yourself: Push your head out forward like a tortoise. Now, try and lift your arms up as high as you can while keeping your head in the forward position. Then, sit up as straight as you can and try to lift your arms up as high as you can. Do you notice how much higher your arms can lift when your neck is not pushed out to the front?


So, take a closer look at your posture and daily activities the next time that your neck hurts for "no reason" while running or your shoulder hurts during a tennis serve.

In this article:

  • General advice on avoiding computer related neck pain

  • Top 5 neck exercises to treat or prevent neck pain

General advice on avoiding computer related neck pain


1. Set up your work station properly


You can do all the neck exercises in the world, but you will not be able to maintain a good posture if your computer and furniture are at the wrong angles. Don’t worry – you do not need any fancy assessments etc. The team at Posturite has compiled very useful information sheets on how to set up your work station for a normal computer as well as a laptop.


2. Take regular breaks


While standing up and walking to the kitchen is great, this mostly only exercises your lower body. Ideally you want to do movements with your upper body that will relax the tight muscles and move your neck and back joints into the opposite direction than what you have been keeping them in. Do you have good intensions to take breaks, but just don't do it? You can find the best methods (according to recent research) that will help you take regular breaks at work in this link.


Here are my top 5 neck exercises for treating or preventing neck pain:


You can also find more exercise ideas here.


1. The Double Chin Neck Stretch


This neck exercise is great for stretching the muscles in the back of your neck so that you can keep your neck in a more neutral position. This will also place the facet joints in the neck in a less compressed position. Facet joint irritation is one of the main causes for neck pain that I see in my practice.



  • Stand with your lower back against the wall and your feet about 40cm away from the wall.

  • Place the back of your head against the wall.

  • Pull your chin straight back in as if you want to get the back of your neck to touch the wall.

  • You may not be able to get your head against the wall, if your upper back is very stiff. In this case place a small rolled up towel between the back of your head and the wall.

  • Hold the position for 10 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times

NB: Do not push as hard as you can. Only pull your chin back to where you can feel a gentle stretch in the back of your neck.


2. Pec stretch


This exercise will stretch your pectoral muscles at the front of your chest. These get very tight when you sit with rounded shoulders or use a keyboard often. How does this affect your neck pain? It is near impossible to get your neck into a good position if your shoulders are being pulled forward.



  • Stand in an open door.

  • Place your forearms on the door frame at right angles with your shoulders.

  • Now lean forward through the door frame.

  • You should feel a gentle stretch at the front of your chest and into your upper arms.

  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat twice.



  • Then move your arms slightly higher and lean forward.

  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat twice.

3. Thoracic extension


This exercise will help to straighten out your upper back. A stiff, rounded upper back can contribute to your neck pain by forcing you into a forward head position.



  • Sit with your hands behind your head, on a chair that roughly comes to the middle of your back.

  • Lean back by pushing your chest bone out to the front as far as you can.

  • Hold the position for 10 seconds

  • Repeat 10 times.

4. Smell under your armpit


No, this is not a joke! The easiest way to get the position of this neck exercise right is to imagine that you want to smell under your armpit. This will stretch the levator scapula muscle which contributes to neck pain as it often gets overused and tight through using a computer mouse.



  • To stretch the left side of your neck, sit on your left hand.

  • Turn your nose to the right and down to your armpit.

  • Use your right hand to pull your head towards your right armpit.

  • You should feel the stretch on the left side of your neck.

  • Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat 3 times.

  • Repeat it to the other side as well.

5. Stretching upper trapezius


The poor upper traps is one of the main muscle groups that get tight and painful when people ‘carry’ stress in their necks. An angry trapezius muscle can often also cause a headache that you feel around your eye, in addition to neck pain.



  • To stretch the left side of your neck, sit on your left hand.

  • Pull your head straight over to the right, so that your right ear moves towards your right shoulder.

  • Hold the neck stretch for 10 seconds and repeat it 3 times to each side.

Related Post:

Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at SIP online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.


Best wishes

Maryke

About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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