STOP! Check your posture: where is your head positioned right now as you’re reading this article? If you are bending your head forward, you could be putting up to 60 pounds of pressure on your neck. In an upright position, the human head weighs about 12 pounds, but a small shift forward steadily increases the pressure on the neck muscles, bones and disks between the bones.
Test for Neck Pain:
- With your head upright, draw your chin slightly inward. This should feel good as you gently stretch the muscles at the back of the neck.
- Now drop your head forward about 2 inches and hold. You should feel the muscles working to hold your head now weighing in at about 32 pounds.
- Lower your head another inch. Feel the pressure adding up? Your neck is now supporting approximately 42 pounds.
- Last one. Lower your head so you are almost looking directly at the ground. Your neck is now supporting a whopping 60 pounds!
Causes of Neck Pain
With the widespread use of electronic devices, the hours spent hunched over smart phones, tablets and computers is at minimum a couple of hours of day and for many far longer. From muscle strain to reduced lung capacity and even loss of natural curvature of the spine, the results can be occasional neck pain to severe pain, discomfort or difficulty moving.
Everyday activities that contribute to neck muscle strain and tension include:
- Working at a computer with the monitor too far, too high or too low
- Reading a book, smart phone or tablet in a forward leaning position
- Watching TV or a long commute resulting in a hunched forward position
Stretching exercises for the neck and upper body are not only important to include before or after a workout, but also throughout the day. Check out my previous blog, where I discussed the benefits of making movement part of your daily routine.
Move like a Clock to Alleviate Neck Pain
One of my client’s favorite exercises is the “clock exercise.” If you read my blog last week, 5 Best Exercises for Back Pain, this move will seem familiar. Just a little different twist on the same movement makes this the perfect exercise for reducing neck pain.
Try this exercise:
- Stand in a right foot forward lunge position.
- Place your hands on your hips and look side to side. Notice your range of motion.
You will complete a total of 9-15 repetitions if you complete phases 1, 2 and 3. Start by lifting both arms in front to shoulder height. You will be reaching the left hand front to back, staying at shoulder height. On a clock face, the arm is rotating from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock. Right hand remains still. As we progress through phases 1, 2 and 3, if you feel any pain or discomfort, repeat an earlier progression that is comfortable until you are ready to advance.
Action (repeat the movement in each phase 3-5x each for 9-15 repetitions in total):
- Phase 1: Left hand reach 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock. Head moves with the hand 12 to 6.
- Phase 2: Hand reaches 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock. Head follows the hand, but stops at 9 o’clock as the hand reaches to 6 and then returns back to 12 with the hand.
- Phase 3: Hand reaches 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock. Head does not move.
Photos below demonstrate the movement in phase 3:
Two hands start at 12 o’clock
Eyes forward, Hand reaching to 6 o’clock
Eyes forward, hand at 6 o’clock
Place your hands on your hips and look side to side. Notice your range of motion. Did you improve? Don’t forget to do this on both sides of the body. When you repeat the exercise for the other side of the body, begin in a left foot forward lunge and reach with the right arm.
The clock exercise can be found right in our world-class water workouts platform, WECOACH Workouts. Learn more about how we can help you move and feel better with both water and land workouts for all levels.