By Mia Barnes for Yoga Medicine.
Gadgets may make the modern world go around, but early designers didn’t factor human anatomy into their plans. As a result, today’s digital lifestyles place increasing demands on your muscles, ligaments and even bones, leaving you at a heightened risk for pain.
One such modern gripe is tech neck — pain in the neck and shoulders caused by looking at computers, phones and other screens. Fortunately, you can often achieve relief through holistic means, no doctor necessary. How? Here are eight yoga poses to ease tech neck pain.
What Is “Tech Neck?”
Tech neck stems from the modern habit of continually looking down at various devices like cell phones and tablets. Inside your body, your ligaments connect soft tissue to hard tissue through the entheses. These spots are especially sensitive to injury and can develop enthesophytes — bony spurs that erupt in response to stress, spreading the tension more readily from one point across a larger area.
You can develop the ache of tech neck with or without the accompanying enthesophytes. Be alert for the following symptoms if you spend considerable time on your computer and phone:
- Neck pain
- Sharp pain with neck flexion
- Limited range of motion
- Tech neck headaches
- Rounded shoulders
You can prevent tech neck by taking proper precautions when using your gadgets. For example, set up an ergonomic workstation where you can comfortably sit and see your screen while keeping your neck in a neutral position.
It’s a bit tougher when using your phone, but mindfulness helps. Consider stands and braces that place your device at a comfortable height and privacy screens that hide your scrolling from anyone who isn’t at the right height and distance.
8 Yoga Poses to Ease Tech Neck Pain
If you already have tech neck, you may wonder whether there’s anything you can do to ease the ache. Yes — the following yoga poses can help.
1. Chin to Chest
Take a comfortable seat with your back elongated and shoulders relaxed. Gently drop your chin to your chest without rounding your shoulders forward. Hold for five breaths. Allow your body to feel the weight of your head — can you explore the tension in your neck region?
2. Ear to Shoulder
Begin in chin to chest, then gently tilt your head and move your right ear toward the right shoulder, taking care not to hyperextend by letting it drop too far back. Hold for five breaths, then come back through center, bringing your left ear to your left shoulder.
3. Drishti Shift
Return your head to a neutral position, eyes facing forward. Turn your head to the side as you fix your gaze on an object 20 feet away in that direction. Pause for five breaths, then repeat on the other side. This exercise is also fabulous for easing eye strain caused by long hours at the computer.
You can perform this pose on all fours or do a seated variation. Get onto your hands and knees with a neutral spine for the original. As you inhale, lift your head and tailbone as you let your belly sink into cow. As you exhale, round your spine like a scared Halloween kitty.
To do the seated version, place your hands on your thighs and sit tall with a neutral spine. Arch your back as you inhale, and lean forward and exhale as you round your back.
5. Sphinx Pose
Gazing upwards with the sphinx pose can counteract modern spine issues that result from looking down. Lie on your belly, bringing your elbows directly beneath your shoulders to create a slight arch in your lower back. Keep your gaze forward.
6. Child’s Pose
Child’s pose stretches many of the secondary muscles involved in tech neck, like your trapezius. From all fours, bring your toes together, knees wide and sink your hips back as you extend your arms in front of you. You can play with the move, shifting your upper body slightly from side to side to increase the stretch.
7. Cow Face Pose
You might do this pose on triceps day, but it’s also a great remedy for tech neck. From a neutral spine position, gaze forward, raise one arm and pat yourself on the back. Use the other arm to gently add pressure to the elbow to increase the stretch.
8. Thread the Needle Pose
Begin this pose on all fours. Extend your right arm and stretch it beneath your body as you lower down to rest on the shoulder. You’ll look as if you are in a modified child or puppy pose. Repeat on the other side.
You can also do a seated variation of this pose. Extend one arm straight in front of you, then take it across your body. Gently press with the other hand, leaning your head toward your extended fingertips.
Flowing It Into Practice — Try This Seated Desk Yoga Routine
Are you ready to put your tech neck routine into practice? Try this mini flow at your desk — repeat it every 30 to 60 seconds to ease your symptoms and prevent future problems.
- Dristi shift: You can set a timer and perform this pose every 20 minutes to avoid headaches.
- Chin to chest, followed by ear to shoulder: Repeat several times if desired.
- Seated cat-cows: You’ll stretch your back while sitting at your desk so you won’t have to get on the ground.
- Cow face pose: Free up tension in your arms and back at the same time.
- Seated thread the needle: Repeat with both arms.
Yoga Poses to Ease Tech Neck Pain
Tech neck is a modern problem caused by excessive gadget use. Working on such devices for long hours is inescapable in many people’s lives.
Fortunately, holistic relief awaits. Try these eight yoga poses to ease tech neck pain and avoid problems while easing present aches.
About the Author
Mia Barnes is a health and wellness freelance writer with a passion for covering topics related to yoga, meditation and mindfulness. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine. Follow Mia and Body+Mind on Twitter and LinkedIn!