Erika Weiss, a wellness expert at ISSA Yoga, has created and ideal solution to help combat tech neck, or the lower neck pain caused by the muscles we strain when staring at our phones, tablets, and computers.
She says that simply changing how you hold your device makes a big difference in combating long-term posture problems, as well as catching yourself when you start to slump and practicing some key yoga moves.
The nation’s concerns around poor posture appear to have risen as of late, as Google Trends shows that searches for “fix bad posture” have skyrocketed 873 percent in the last month alone. Searches for “sore neck” are also up by almost a third (30 percent).
According to Weiss, many of us will only realize how bad our posture has become as we start gearing up to take a break from the office and enjoy a vacation.
“Just as some people fall ill once they stop working before a holiday, others will realize that rushing to meet last-minute deadlines and internalizing their stress has had a detrimental effect on their posture, resulting in lower neck and upper back pain,” she says. “This is particularly true for people who spend long periods at their desk without interruption, or those who work remotely and are therefore less inclined to take restorative breaks.”
Some key signs that show your posture is starting to take a toll include frequent headaches, pain between the shoulder blades, a stiff or immovable neck, and even jaw pain.
If that sounds like you, rest assured, there are some easy ways to help during work hours, as Weiss stresses the importance of an ergonomic set-up. “One of the easiest ways to reduce discomfort caused by bad posture is to raise your devices so that they’re eye-level,” she says. “Try to be conscious of how straight you sit, and if you feel yourself start to slump when concentrating or struggling to read, try to catch yourself and take a break if you can. Avoid rolling your shoulders forward or outstretching your neck to look at your screen.”
This also goes for after-work activities involving devices, such as switching out a handheld games console for an eye-level computer monitor or TV to ensure you’re sitting straight.
One of the best things for people who are experiencing an increase in back or neck pain is to take up yoga, as it works to stretch and relax the muscles that become tense during the day.
However, it’s important to focus on low impact moves that bend your spine without causing unnecessary stress to your sore muscles, as the goal is to strengthen them, not strain them.
According to Weiss, some of the common mistakes yoga newbies make is to rush into it. “Many follow the most common or most popular routines without considering their suitability, which can exacerbate back issues and cause more soreness,” she says. “Unless you’re experienced, it’s best to stick to the following moves that can alleviate neck and upper back pain, but make sure you don’t push yourself too much at the start.”
Here are a few poses to try:
Neck Pain: Standing Forward Bend. Also known as Uttanasana, this pose also stretches your hamstrings and is beneficial for relieving stress. Start in the Raised Hands Pose before sweeping your arms down on either side and folding forward from your hips. Bring your fingertips in line with the toes, and press your palms flat. Let your head hang loosely and inhale slowly on the way back up.
Neck Pain: Warrior II Pose. Start in Mountain Pose, and take a big step back with your left leg, toes pointing inwards. Press your feet down, and firm your legs before raising your arms outwards parallel to the floor. Make sure that you keep your shoulders down to lengthen your neck and bend your right knee so that it aligns above your ankle. Press down through your toes to promote balance and hold.
Neck Pain: Extended Triangle Pose. To come into this pose, stand facing the long side of your mat with your feet apart. Turn your right foot out so that your toes point to the short edge of the mat, and turn your left toes in. Roll your right thigh out before extending your body and lifting your arms parallel to the floor. Point your left arm to the ceiling, and ensure your neck aligns with your spine.
Upper Back Pain: Cat Pose. Also known as Marjaryasana, you should start on your hands and knees (on all fours) with knees under the hips and wrists in line with your shoulders. Spread your fingers and pull your stomach in as you exhale, bringing your waist up and rounding out your spine. Actively push against the floor to feel the stretch in your back before relaxing on the inhale to return to a neutral position.
Upper Back Pain: Thread the Needle. Start on all fours and stack your hips directly above your knees, with your elbows, shoulders, and wrists in a straight line to the ground. Lift your right hand up and follow it with your gaze, and follow your right hand down as you thread it beneath your left arm. Keep your hips high and lower your chest to the ground. Hold the position for as long as you need before switching sides.