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

Updated on February 10, 2023.

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 might make it feel better: strength training. Research shows that toning and strengthening problem areas may be the best way to keep your neck feeling loose and less sore.

One 2019 review published in Journal of Clinical Medicine, for example, looked at different rehabilitation approaches for chronic neck pain. Exercise-based therapies—especially strengthening exercises of the neck, shoulder, and shoulder blades—were tied to the quickest reduction in short-term pain. The researchers noted, however, that the quality of evidence in general was not very strong, and that more long-term study is needed. 

Solutions for your aching neck

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.

A team of Norwegian researchers set out to find a good solution. They assigned 30 office workers with neck pain to one of two different strength training treatments. The treatments took place five days a week and lasted for 10 minutes per session. The first group did one session per day, while the second group did two sessions per day. After 16 weeks (eight weeks of normal activities for both groups then eight weeks of a strength training intervention), researchers noted a major decrease in neck and shoulder pain in both groups. There were no differences found between training once versus twice per day. 

The strength-training exercises targeted necks and shoulders. They used elastic tubes for resistance and consisted of:

  • One-arm rows
  • Upright rows
  • One-arm reverse flys
  • One-arm lateral raises

General pain was reduced by 25 percent, but for those with the highest levels of pain, a 43 percent reduction was observed. Study results were published in BMC Sports Science, Medicine, and Rehabilitation in 2020. 

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 Norwegian study did their neck and arm exercises five days per 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

Sterling M, de Zoete RMJ, Coppieters I, et al. Best Evidence Rehabilitation for Chronic Pain Part 4: Neck Pain. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2019;8(8). 
Physiopedia. Trapezius Myalgia. Accessed January 25, 2023.
Saeterbakken AH, Makrygiannis P, Stien N, et al. Dose-response of resistance training for neck-and shoulder pain relief: a workplace intervention study. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2020;12. 
Lee R, James C, Edwards S, et al. Differences in upper body posture between individuals with and without chronic idiopathic neck pain during computerised device use: A 3D motion analysis study. Gait & Posture. 2022;95:30-37.

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