Whoever said that desk life was easy didn’t get it all right. Sure, you get to sit down, but at what cost?! Sitting all day can cause a ton of hip and lower back tightness, general back aches, and neck pain. And unless you change career paths entirely, this sitting situation is likely going to last. So let’s fight it! You’ll learn a lot more about “The Sitting Epidemic” next week, but in the meantime, there are definitely some things you can do to at least help ease and also prevent neck and back pain from creeping up.
First thing’s first: If this is something chronic for you—meaning it’s something that has been happening frequently for a while now—go to a professional. A trusted chiropractor may adjust you and refer you to a massage therapist that can help as well.
Here are a few movements and tips I can recommend, that will help!
How to Help Neck & Back Pain
1. Foam Roll
Foam rolling is one of the most practical ways of stretching and increasing your flexibility. Think about it: If you have a rubber band with a knot in it, no matter how hard you pull, it will never stretch as far as possible until you remove the knot. Foam rolling will help release that knot in your body! If you’re unfamiliar with how to do this, read our foam rolling post to get started. When you’re combatting lots of sitting, be sure to carefully foam roll your neck. If you need a deeper massage, try using a lacrosse ball. When you find the knot, stay on it for about 30 seconds and then keep rolling.
You may also be fooled regarding the true source of your pain. Your neck may be aching, but sometimes it’s a result of tightness in another muscle. An example of this is your levator scapulae muscle. This muscle attaches to the top of your shoulder blade. If it’s tight, it can cause headaches at the base of your skull. So listen to your entire body!
Here are three stretches that can help you loosen-up. You’ll want to do this sequence regularly holding each exercise for about 30 seconds.
- Start on all fours on the floor, with your back slightly rounded. Arch your back, pulling your abdominals up and in, raising your shoulders and lowering your head. Repeat as desired.
- Stand or sit upright, placing one hand on the opposite side of your head, elbow bent. Gently pull your head down sideways toward your shoulder. Alternate sides.
- Stand or sit upright holding a towel in both hands, wrapped around the back of your head. Gently pull your head forward and down.
Let’s face it: The neck has a tough job every day. Your head weighs about as much as a bowling ball! Imagine holding a bowling ball up with your arm for 16 hours a day—that’s tough! So one of the best ways to reduce neck pain is to get some exercises in that can strengthen those muscles. We also want to get blood flowing to that area. (More blood equals more oxygen. More oxygen equals faster recovery!) Exercises that fit the bill for this can really vary. Whether you’re doing push-ups, shoulder raises, or even a plank, you are strengthening the area and getting some blood there.
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: Drink water! If you experience regular headaches, which often connect to a sore neck or upper back, bad hydration may be a contributor. Hydrating helps with so much—including helping that hangover!—so if you have a sore or stiff neck, it doesn’t hurt to start there.