How to Undo Neck Pain

Is using your tablet, smartphone or laptop giving you grief? Try these tips to feel better.

woman working with neck pain

Medically reviewed in June 2020

Updated on November 1, 2020

In this age of constant digital connection and late-night scrolling, you may be no stranger to neck pain. Beyond reducing your screen time, here's what to do if you want it to get better: strength train. Research shows that toning and strengthening problem areas may be the best way to keep your neck feeling loose and less sore.­

Oh, my aching…
Neck pain—technically dubbed trapezius myalgia—is a common complaint of people who use tablets, smartphones and computers. Office workers are among those who are particularly prone.

Danish researchers set out to find a good solution. They assigned 42 office workers with neck pain to one of three different treatments. After 10 weeks, a strength-training approach won big-time over cardio exercise or health- and stress-management counseling.

The people in the strength-training group did exercises targeting their neck and shoulders. These consisted of:

  • Arm rows
  • Upright rows
  • Reverse flys
  • Shoulder elevation
  • Shoulder abduction

Altogether, the moves zapped the workers’ neck pain by a whopping 50 percent. Study results were published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2009.

Time to hit the gym?
If your trapezius is troubling you, don't trot off to the gym just yet. First, speak with your healthcare provider (HCP) to make sure what you're experiencing is simple neck pain and not something more serious. Then, you can decide together what the best treatment is for your case.

If your pain is related to electronics use, strength training may be the right path. The strengthening group in the Danish study did their neck and arm exercises several times each week. But you should talk with your HCP about what kinds of exercises might make sense for you, as well as how often you should do them.

Your HCP will also likely want to discuss your posture. Why? Poor posture can contribute greatly to neck pain—and the success of your strength training may depend on first correcting it.

Article sources open article sources

LL Andersen, JL Andersen, et al. “Effect of contrasting physical exercise interventions on rapid force capacity of chronically painful muscles.” Journal of Applied Physiology. 2009 Nov;107(5):1413-9.

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