5 stretches to do at your desk to ease neck and shoulder pain

Tight and knotted neck and shoulder muscles are painful and can lower your productivity at the office. (Pic courtesy of Rawpixel)

PETALING JAYA: Right about now as you’re reading this, you’re probably hunched over your laptop or smartphone, chin jutting forward.

Occasionally you might feel a sharp pain in the back of your neck or tension in your shoulders, but you brush it off, not realising the toll it is taking on your body.

FMT spoke to Cindy Huang recently, a certified yoga and pilates instructor from Taiwan on why she places so much importance on neck and shoulder stretches in her classes.

“I originally began teaching yoga but I realised there were not many pilates instructors in Malaysia, especially qualified ones.

“I go with my clients’ needs. If they need more stretching, I recommend yoga to them but if they want to focus on physical therapy and have long term injuries, it’s easier for them to try pilates because the exercise focuses on your powerhouse,” Cindy says.

The “powerhouse” stretches from the bottom of one’s ribs all the way to the hip line. It includes the abdominal muscles, lower back muscles, pelvic floor, muscles around the hips, and the glutes.

Cindy began introducing neck and shoulder stretches to her clients when she noticed most of them were either office workers or students who were often prone to stiff necks and sore shoulders from constantly working on their computers and laptops.

“Due to their busy schedules, they are often unable to make time for physical therapy. I make it a point to give my students useful tips that they can use in their daily lives.”

If the pain of a stiff neck and sore shoulders doesn’t keep you up at night, Cindy warns that in the long run, this will lead to a loss in muscle elasticity. You might even develop a Hunchback of Notre Dame situation in your later years.

To remedy sore neck and shoulder muscles, here are five exercises you can do at your work desk:

1. Side to side head movement exercises

  • Gently rotate your neck from left to right.
  • Ensure that the ear is away from the shoulder.
  • Repeat the same movement but look up and face down instead.
  • Do this a couple of times.

2. Chin tuck

  • Sit upright and look straight ahead with the ears directly over the shoulders.
  • Place a finger on the chin.
  • Without moving the finger, pull the chin and head straight back (like a turkey neck) until a good stretch is felt at the base of the head and top of the neck.

3. Levator scapulae stretch

This stretch is perfect to ease a tight neck. (Pic courtesy of Cindy)
  • Raise the right arm forwards and reach over the back of your right shoulder.
  • Take your left hand and place it on the back of your head.
  • Rotate your head to the left about 45 degrees, eyes to the knees.
  • Tilt the chin downward until a good stretch is felt on the back right side of the neck.
  • This stretch works on the levator scapulae, which is a long muscle that runs down the side of the neck and attaches into the shoulder.

4. Elbow lift

Life the elbows as high as you can to activate the shoulder muscles. (Pic courtesy of Cindy)
  • Place your hands and elbows together.
  • Ensure that your shoulders are not hunched.
  • When your elbows touch each other, lift them as high as you can to activate the shoulder muscles.

5. Wide-legged standing forward twist with a chair

If you are prone to dizzy spells, you can opt to sit on the chair, bend your body forward and place your hands on the floor. (Pic courtesy of Cindy)
  • Place a chair in front of you.
  • Stand straight and ensure your shoulders are not hunched.
  • Place one hand on the chair and face the opposite direction with the other hand in the air.
  • Repeat the same movement with the opposite hand.
  • If you are prone to dizzy spells, you can opt to sit on the chair, bend your body forward and place your hands on the floor.