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The Most Effective Text Neck Exercises

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT December 30, 2020 0 Comments

man neck stretch exercise

To reverse text neck, exercises for the neck, shoulders and upper back muscles are important to incorporate into your regular workout routine. In today’s technology laden world, neck pain caused by the amount of time we spend slouched over our cell phones, tablets, and computers is very common. Overtime, this can lead to chronic neck pain and more serious issues. Keep scrolling to get started with safe and effective stretches and exercises for tech neck.

Stretches for Text Neck

Do these stretches to help loosen stiff neck and back muscles located along the thoracic and cervical spine, plus promote better overall upper body alignment and good posture.

Lateral Neck Stretch

Use this stretch to address the upper traps, where there is typically the most tension. Simply sit (or stand) in a chair with good posture (shoulders back and head in neutral position). Bring your left ear sideways toward your left shoulder. Keep the right shoulder relaxed. To increase the intensity of the stretch, you can anchor your right hand by grabbing the bottom of your chair or you can start to extend your right arm out to the side.

Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets. Then, switch directions. Keep your upper body relaxed and pain free.

Neck Rotation Stretch

Address some of the deeper sore spots in the cervical spine with this stretch. Sit in a chair and avoid bad posture. Make sure the neck is in neutral (slightly tucked) before starting to prevent aggravation. Then, rotate your head to the right as you look over your right shoulder. When you can’t go any further, place your left hand on your cheek and apply gentle overpressure and hold. Do not force this stretch and always keep the neck neutral.

Hold for 5-10 seconds before switching to the other side. Repeat 10-20 times total on each side. 

Upper Spine Stretching (on Hands and Knees)

The upper back becomes notoriously tight with slouching. To fix this, get on your hands and knees with the butt shifted slightly back toward the heels to support the low back. Then, place your right hand behind your head. Rotate the spine as you attempt to point your elbow up toward the ceiling. Go as far as you can comfortably go and hold.

Hold for 10+ seconds and repeat for up to 15 repetitions for 2-3 sets total. Switch to the left side when you’re ready and repeat.

Thoracic Mobilization

This self-mobilization technique is great for upper back pain and stiffness. Grab a foam roller and lie on it horizontally (perpendicular to the spine) with the upper back touching it. Keep the knees bent and hands behind your head. Then, simply lift your butt off the ground and roll up and down the upper spine until you find a sore spot. Place your butt back on the ground, tighten your abs, and breathe as you push your spine down against the roller (as you extend the back and tuck the chin).

Roll back and forth and address each sore spot for 30-60 seconds as needed.

Supine Chest Stretch

This chest opening stretch will help with shoulder pain caused from text neck and help fix bad posture. Start by lying on a foam roller lengthwise under the spine, if you can tolerate it, otherwise simply lie on the floor. Keep feet flat on the floor and your knees bent for stability. Bring your arms out to the side in a touchdown position that is parallel with the floor. Hold and relax as you let the elbows drop down toward the ground as far as possible.

Hold for 60+ seconds for 2-3 sets total. You can try other arm positions as well to further stretch the chest and upper spine- such as straight out the side or overhead.

Strength Exercises for Text Neck

Strengthening the upper body is an essential part of recovering from or reducing symptoms of text neck. Most often, the poor posture associated with text neck leaves the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back completely out of balance. Use these simple exercises to help strengthen your muscles.

Neck Exercises

  • Chin Tucks

    Chin tucks are very subtle but will stretch neck muscles and boost coordination and strength. Sit in a chair and start with good posture. Tuck your chin down in the direction of your chest (as if to give yourself a double chin) until you feel a stretch in the back of the head and hold. Your eye level and line of vision should be parallel with the floor now. This will open up the space in your skull that is chronically “squished” all day in poor posture.

    Hold for 5 seconds for 10 repetitions, repeat 2-3 times total. Repeat it often throughout the day.

  • Lateral Isometric Neck Strengthening

    Sit comfortably with good posture and a neutral position of the neck. Tilt your head slightly to the left and place your left hand against the side of your face. Gently apply pressure with your hand to the neck without actually moving your neck, match the pressure and hold. Keep your upper trap relaxed and focus on feeling this deep in the side and front of the left neck. 

    Hold for 5-10 seconds for up to 10 repetitions. Then, switch to the other side.

Shoulder Exercises

  • Wall Angels

    Stand against a wall with the feet 6-12 inches from the wall and knees slightly bent. Try to get your entire spine and upper back as close to the wall as possible (if the low back is slightly arched that is okay). The back of the neck and head should be able to touch the wall comfortably. Bring your arms out to the side in a touchdown position. From here, keep your abs tight as you slide your arms up the wall; bringing your hands straight up toward the ceiling. Go as high as you can while keeping good posture and the neck relaxed.

    Repeat for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets. If the move is too hard to coordinate, you can start by simply trying to get in the correct starting position and holding that posture for 30-60 seconds. 

  • Resistance Band Row

    Grab a moderate to heavy resistance band and secure it at the center at hip height to get started. Grab each end with one hand and get into good spine alignment and posture. Then, with the elbows bent pull your arms straight back as you squeeze the shoulder blades together. Focus on keeping the upper neck relaxed and shoulders down.

    Repeat for 15 repetitions for 2-3 sets total. If you cannot keep your neck relaxed, you can start without the band and simply focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together.  

  • Knee Plank for Shoulder Stability

    Start on your hands and knees and prop yourself on your forearms and knees. Focus on keeping the entire spine flat, chin tucked, and abs tight. Don’t forget to breathe as you hold this position.

    Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets. Progress to a toe plank when you are ready and can hold the position while keeping the body in one straight line.

Upper Back Exercises

  • Prone Shoulder Blade Retraction

    Lie on your stomach with the chin tucked so that your forehead is resting comfortably on the ground. Tighten your core to keep your low back from arching during this exercise. Then, place your arms out to the side in a touchdown or “W” position (shoulders and elbows at 90 degrees). Lastly, tighten the shoulder blades as you lift both arms a few inches off the ground and hold.

    Hold for 2-3 seconds for 10-15 repetitions. Keep the upper neck relaxed and focus solely between the shoulder blades. You can also try other arm positions, such as tucked at your side or overhead, while lifting and pinching the shoulder blades.

  • Supine “I”, “Y”, and “T”

    This move is great for mobilizing and strengthening the upper back with arm movement. Lie on a foam roller or rolled large towel lengthwise to get started. Keep your knees bent for stability and make sure your entire spine and back of the head are touching the roller. Then, you will alternate between three different moves.

  • First, bring your arms out to the side into a “T” and hold for 5 seconds. 
  • Then, bring your arms up toward the ceiling and transition into a “Y” with the arms at a diagonal overhead. Hold again for 5 seconds.
  • Lastly, bring your arms up toward the ceiling again and then transition to bringing your arms straight up overhead into an “I” and hold.

With each hold, try to let your arms fall toward the floor as far as possible without pain. Alternate between each position 10 times for 2-3 sets. Keep your neck relaxed throughout.

Yoga Poses for the Upper Body

Yoga is perfect for gentle stretching, strength building, deep breathing and relaxation. Here are the best poses to help relieve tension or strain caused by text neck.

Cat Cow Stretch

This stretch is great for promoting circulation and mobility through the spine while boosting relaxation. Start on your hands and knees with the shoulders directly under the shoulders and the knees directly under the hips. Then, take a deep breath as you arch the low back and look up toward the ceiling and hold. Next, as you exhale reverse the direction by tucking your tailbone, curving your upper back and tucking your chin toward the chest.

Hold for 5 seconds in each direction, repeating each move for 10 times total. Complete 2-3 sets.

Child’s Pose

Start on your hands and knees with your knees out wider than hip width. Then, bring your butt back toward your heels as far as possible as you bring your chest down toward the floor. To stretch the upper back and arms, keeping your arms straight out in front of you. Settle into the stretch and hold. Focus on deep breathing and staying relaxed in this position.

Hold for 60+ seconds for 2-3 sets.

Eagle Arm Pose

This is a gentle stretch for the shoulders, upper back, and shoulder blades that may look complicated at first glance, but don’t be intimidated. Sit or stand in a comfortable position with good posture. Bring your arms out in front of you with the elbows bent. Place the top of your right elbow so that it is directly underneath the bottom of your left elbow. Keep your arms in front of your chest. From here, wrap the forearm of the right arm around the left arm so that it is closer to your body. Your arms are now twisted together. If possible, gently lift your hands up toward the ceiling until a stretch in felt in the upper back and hold.

Hold and breath for 5-10 seconds for up to 10 repetitions total. Keep the neck relaxed throughout. Repeat the stretch with the arms wrapped around each other in the opposite direction.

Maximizing Your Exercise Routine

An exercise routine for text neck involves finding a balance throughout the entire upper body. In order to optimize your program, keep these simple tips in mind:

  • If you spend a lot of time on electronics, set a timer for frequent breaks (at least every two hours). Try incorporating a few of these exercises while you give your neck a breather on each break.

    Here’s more ways to reverse tech neck

  • Set up your work and leisure environments to maximize good posture and ergonomics. Think about details like your chair, lumbar support, and desk set up. 
  • Before doing any type of exercise, always ensure your posture is optimal. This means the shoulders are back and the chin is slightly tucked. 
  • Avoid bad habits like forward head posture or exercise can aggravate your symptoms.

    Learn About Good Posture

  • It can feel overwhelming knowing where to start. If you’d like expert advice and a personalized program to maximize your results, consider a round of physical therapy or chiropractic care.

Keeping it Safe

Text neck can range from mild symptoms to more severe problems if left untreated. Where you can start with your exercise routine will depend on your fitness level, symptoms, flexibility, and overall comfort. Start where you can and progress from there to gain all the awesome benefits of regular upper body exercise. 

Remember, neck pain can be a sign of more serious underlying issues, so if your symptoms are not improving, getting worse, or you notice neurological symptoms like tingling, sharp pain, or numbness, get in touch with your doctor or physical therapist immediately for further medical advice.

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Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.



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