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5 Pilates Moves to Improve Your 'Tech Neck'

Tech neck, also known as text neck, has become a prevalent modern-day ailment that affects many individuals due to prolonged use of electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers. As our lives become increasingly intertwined with technology, we spend more time hunched over screens, and our necks and upper backs bear the brunt of this poor posture. The constant forward head position and rounded shoulders puts excessive strain on the muscles, joints, and ligaments in the neck and upper back, leading to discomfort, pain, stiffness and ultimately changes in appearance and posture.

“Civilisation impairs physical fitness.” - Joseph Pilates

Tech neck is characterised by a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. Common symptoms include headaches, a stiff neck, neck spasms, pain between the shoulder blades, rounded shoulders, forward head posture, and jaw stiffness and tension. These symptoms can significantly impact our daily lives and overall well-being, affecting our productivity, comfort, and quality of life.

One effective approach to alleviate the effects of tech neck and promote better posture and comfort is incorporating exercises that target postural correction and overall body alignment, such as Pilates. Pilates is a comprehensive exercise method that emphasises postural correction by strengthening stabilising muscle groups, increasing mobility within the joints including neck and upper back, improving flexibility of the muscles and fostering body awareness.

Through a combination of controlled movements, focused breathing, and proper alignment, Pilates helps address muscle imbalances and improve posture.

Ayhualem S, et al. Burden of neck pain and associated factors among smart phone user students in University of Gondar, Ethiopia.

Pilates exercises for tech neck typically focus on strengthening the deep stabilising muscles of the upper back, neck and core while simultaneously promoting flexibility of the chest and shoulders and enhancing mobility within the cervical and thoracic spine. By engaging in regular Pilates practice, we can gradually relieve tension, improve posture, and reduce the discomfort associated with tech neck.

Some key exercises that can be beneficial include:

1. Chin Tucks ( The Chicken) - Level 1

Sit or stand tall, aligning your head, neck, and shoulders. Gently draw your chin inward, creating a double chin. Hold this position for a few seconds before releasing. Repeat several times throughout the day to strengthen the neck muscles and align the head and neck properly.

2. Neck/Upper Trap Stretch - Level 2

Slowly turn your head to look over one shoulder, once you have reached your full range start to bring up the arm, on the same side, towards the crown of your head. Gently encourage a deeper stretch by placing the hand just past the crown of the head and dipping the chin down to look down past your lifted arms armpit towards the outside of your hip. Try to relax shoulders on both sides as you stretch, hold for around 30 seconds per side, completing a second set if you are comfortable.

3. Wall Angels - Level 3

Standing against a wall with your feet slightly away from the wall, try to encourage a neutral spine, meaning tailbone and ribcage will rest against the wall, maintaining a very slight curve in the lower back while engaging deep the stabilisers, think of gently drawing your navel to your spine. Bring the arms up into a goal post position with elbows and wrists against the wall (or as close as possible). Try to gently press the rib cage towards the wall, don't allow 'popping' or flaring of the rib cage, even if that means that the wrists have to move away from the wall slightly.

On an exhale, keeping the rib cage in mind, slowly slide the arms up the walls, attempting to touch finger tips above your head. On your inhale gently pull them back down into your goal post position again. Repeat 5-8 times or as many as you are able to.

4. Threading the Needle - Level 4

Start in a four point kneeling position, with hands underneath shoulders and knees underneath your hips, shoulder and hip width apart. On your inhale, slowly lift one arm up next to the body to lift toward the ceiling, watching the hand as it travels up and allowing the body and chest to open towards the side. On the exhale, thread your lifted arm behind your arm standing on the mat, twisting the body inwards and reaching the hand towards the opposite wall. If your flexibility allows for it allow the ear to come down towards the mat. Listen to your own body and move within a range of motion that feels accessible for your spine. * Not applicable for people who have contraindications for twisting the spine.

5. Puppy Dog Pose - Level 5

Start in a four point kneeling position, with hands underneath shoulders and knees underneath your hips, shoulder and hip width apart. Start to walk your hands out to the two top corners of your mat, creating a small V position with the hands. Once you are comfortable exhale to begin to drop the chest towards the mat, while keeping the hips stacked above the knees. Think of drawing sternum to the mat and try to place the forehead on the mat.

In addition to exercise, there are other measures we can take to mitigate the impact of tech neck.First and foremost, it is crucial to limit screen time and take regular breaks from prolonged device use. Set aside specific times throughout the day for tech-free periods to allow your neck and upper back to rest and recover.

When working or using electronic devices, it is essential to focus on correct posture, maintaining a neutral spine and aligning your head, neck, and shoulders in a balanced position.Taking short breaks during work to stand up, stretch, and move around can also help relieve muscle tension and improve circulation. Engaging in regular physical activity be it Pilates or other exercise types such as walking, swimming, or cycling, can further promote overall well-being and counteract the sedentary nature of prolonged device use.

Ayhualem S, et al. Burden of neck pain and associated factors among smart phone user students in University of Gondar, Ethiopia.

Additionally, creating an ergonomic workspace is crucial. Invest in an ergonomic chair that provides proper support for your back and neck. Adjust your desk and computer screen to an appropriate height and angle to maintain proper alignment while working.

Applying heat to inflamed areas can provide temporary relief from muscle tension and discomfort. You can use a heating pad, warm towel, or take a warm shower to relax the muscles. However, it is important to note that heat therapy is not a substitute for proper exercise, postural correction, and addressing the underlying causes of tech neck.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms it is advisable to seek professional advice from a physical therapist or healthcare provider for stretches and mobilising techniques tailored to your specific needs. A professional can provide personalised guidance and ensure you are performing exercises correctly and safely. Or if the pain and discomfort persist or worsen despite self-care measures, it is advisable to consult with a physiotherapist or healthcare professional immediately.

Incorporating exercises like Pilates, maintaining proper posture, taking regular breaks, and seeking professional guidance can help alleviate the symptoms of tech neck and counteract the effects of prolonged device use to promote better neck and upper back health. Prioritising self-care, making conscious choices to support our neck and upper back health, and seeking professional guidance when needed will contribute to a healthier and more comfortable digital lifestyle.

If you're experiencing persistent or severe symptoms of tech neck, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist for a comprehensive evaluation and personalised recommendations.

If you have found this helpful why not try one of our online Pilates videos or sign up for live online Pilates workouts - workout from the comfort of your own home with an experienced instructor.

Note: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Not all exercises listed will be appropriate or applicable to all bodies, especially if you have any other injuries or medical conditions. If you have persistent or severe symptoms, please consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist.

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