Physical therapy exercises for tech neck treatment

Posted on 10/18/2021; updated 8/8/22

Technology has brought new ways of working and interacting to our fingertips.

But there can be side effects too with all of this technology.

One of the biggest complaints of people who spend time on their tech devices is a condition known as tech neck. It's the stiffness and tension caused by constant hunching and slouching when using computers and phones.

And if you spend a lot of time texting on your phone, it can be referred to as text neck.

You may have it and don't even know it! But you're familiar with its symptoms.

Stiff neck. Headaches. Muscle tension in your neck and shoulders.

But there's good news! Physical therapy exercises can help lessen your pain and discomfort.

Much of the time pain is due to poor posture when using a computers and smart devices. Poor posture increases the amount of pressure placed on your muscles. Here's something to remember.

An average bowling ball weights 10-12 pounds. That's the weight of your head when sitting up straight.

When you slouch forward with your head bent down, the weight of your head is more like 50-60 pounds to your neck. That's a lot of bowling balls!

When you imaging your neck supporting five times more weight for several hours a day, it’s easy to see why your muscles are aching.

Knowing that, if you’re suffering from tech neck, the good news is that it’s treatable and often reversible.

Try these five strengthening and stretching exercises to combat it:

Chin retraction

Take a moment to be mindful.

Sit with your head well in front of your shoulders by pulling your shoulders back. This is the starting position for retracting your head.

Pull your chin backward while looking directly forward -- you should fee a "double chin" forming under your jaw. 

Repeat this forward/backward movement 10 times once each hour or two while working.

Do this daily while sitting at your work space.

Five-point Trap stretch

Tension in the upper trapezius muscles -- the muscles in the upper back that help shrug your shoulders -- is common. The trap stretch is a great one to release tension.

It takes only 20-30 seconds to help release tension on the side of your neck.

To stretch the right side:

  1. Place your right hand on your waist or lower back.
  2. Tilt your head to the left while looking back to the right.
  3. Place your left hand on top of your head .
  4. Gently pull toward the left until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold up to 60 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the left side.

Perform this daily while sitting at your work space.

Thoracic extension

This one feels oh-so-good! 

  1. Lean forward in your chair as if you’re scrunching a pillow between your belly and thighs.
  2. Place your hands with fingers crossed behind your head.
  3. Reach your elbows toward the ceiling while keeping your belly close to your thighs, causing only your upper back to straighten. This forward bend fixes any slouchy posture.

Perform this daily while sitting at your work space.

Prone retraction

Lie face down on the floor with your arms at your side, hands near the hips.

Keep your neck straight (do not look upward) and simultaneously lift your chin, arms and knees off the ground.

Hold the position for 2-3 seconds and release to the floor. Repeat 10 times for three sets.

Perform this exercise  2-3 days each week to promote strengthening of the muscles across the back of your neck, shoulders and torso. It's also a great core strengthener.

Prone scaption

Lie face down on the floor with your arms reaching upward and slightly outward from your head.

Keep your neck straight and simultaneously lift your chin, arms and knees off the ground.

Hold the position for 2-3 seconds and release to the floor. Repeat 10 times for three sets.

This exercise emphasizes the lower trapezius muscle between your shoulder blades due to the overhead arm position. The prone scaption should be performed 2-3 days each week to promote strengthening of the muscles across the back of your neck, shoulders and torso.

Lastly... but most importantly, sit up straight!

It’s not a complicated tip, but it's easy to forget that we need to maintain good posture when working with technology.

Elevate your computer screen so that it is at eye level. If you’re working on a laptop, generally you’ll have to direct your gaze downward while keeping your posture upright, but do your best to comfortably elevate the computer.

If you’re on a phone/tablet, simply make an effort to hold the device up in front of your face while using.

Any of all of these computer and phone neck exercises can be extremely beneficial for your day-to-day comfort.

But if you have pain that persists and it's impacting your daily activities, come see us!

Just click the blue Contact Us button below and choose to Request an Appointment with one of our licensed physical therapists. A physical therapy plan of care can efficiently and effectively strengthen your body, reduce pain and get rid of tech neck.

By: Joe Zucco, P.T., DPT, FAAOMPT, center manager for Select Physical Therapy in Sarasota, FL.

Select Physical Therapy and Kessler Rehabilitation Center are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.