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5 stretches that will help ease the pain of tech neck

Is staring at a screen all day a pain in the neck? These stretches can help.
Tech Neck
Simple stretches can make a big difference in relieving stiffness and pain.TODAY illustration / Stephanie Mansour

If you step away from the computer after a long day of work and feel stiffness and pain in your neck and shoulders, you’re not alone.

Neck pain is the second most common musculoskeletal disorder, and the extended use of technology like computers and cell phones can strain these muscles causing discomfort;

With so many of us working remotely and much of our interactions taking place on a screen, tech neck is difficult to avoid. But ignoring your neck pain can lead to even worse stiffness and discomfort in the future. That’s why it’s important to listen to your body and regularly stretch the muscles that take the brunt of the strain.

Run through these easy, gentle stretches after a long day of work — or use them as an excuse to look away from the computer for five minutes. These stretches should feel good, so only go as far as feels comfortable. Over time you’ll feel your muscles loosen and notice you’re able to drop deeper into each stretch.

Forward, backward and side tilt

You’ve probably done this without even realizing it, but to take this stretch to the next level, hold it for about 15-30 seconds in each position.

Start with positioning your neck so that you’re looking down toward the floor. Slowly lift your head up so that you're looking toward the ceiling. Once you’ve looked down and up, go side to side. Tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder and pause when you feel the stretch. Do the same for your left side. Be sure to move between each position slowly. Breathe and relax.

Seated clasping neck extension

For this stretch, you’ll need to sit either in a chair or on the floor. Start by putting the palms of your hands on the back of your head, elbows out to the side. Slowly point your elbows toward the ground, guiding your head forward and bringing your chin to your chest. Remember to relax your body; don't pull your neck down, but do allow the weight of your hands to add a deeper stretch. Take deep breaths in and out through your nose, holding for about 30 seconds.

Shoulder roll

Shoulder rolls will help loosen up the sides of your neck and the trapezius muscle (or back of the neck). Start by standing up or sitting as tall as you can. Like all stretches, remember to breathe and move slowly. Without moving your arms, pull your shoulders up toward your ears and then toward the back of the room, then back to the starting position, rotating them in a circle slowly. Circle in this direction three times, and then change the direction of the rotation.

Neck rotations

With your chin parallel to the floor, slowly rotate your head from side to side by turning your gaze to the right (so that your chin is over your right shoulder) and then the left (so that your chin is over the left shoulder). Breathe in as you turn to one side, and breathe out as you turn to the other side. Keep your motions gentle and slow. Repeat ten times.

Neck retraction

For this stretch, you can sit or stand, as long as you maintain proper posture. Begin with your head tilted slightly down, but with your gaze straight ahead. Maintain this position while slowly moving your head backwards as far as you can without straining. Pretend like someone is pressing your chin into your head, and then return to a neutral position. Repeat this stretch about ten times, holding for five seconds each time.