I sit at a desk all day and my neck feels very stiff what can I do?

A few times throughout the day make some time to get up out of your seat and walk around for a few minutes to improve blood circulation. Once you've completed your walk, perform a static upper trapezius stretch, chest stretch, and latissimus dorsi stretch to help loosen up the muscles of your neck and upper extremities. Make sure to hold each stretch for approximately 30 seconds. This will give the muscles enough time to relax and lengthen. You should feel a major difference in a fairly short period of time.

Mosaraf Ali, MD
Integrative Medicine

Desk jobs and excessive computer use cause neck stiffness. The head is balanced on top of the neck vertebrae on a pivot joint. It is an awkwardly balanced seesaw. The lengthier front section with all the organs (most of the brain, eyes, facial bones, tongue, etc.) is heavier than the rear occipital part with only a section of the brain. Thus the head is front heavy. This makes the neck muscles tighten up like a pulley to lift the chin up and maintain an erect posture. The constant strain on the muscles cause stiffness due to wear and tear and accumulation of lactic acid.

Squeeze the neck muscles with your hands for 5 counts and release them for five counts. Repeat this cycle for 10 times.

Massage the top of the shoulders for a minute. Grab the left shoulder with your right hand, turn your head to the left, pull, pull the shoulder forward and look over your shoulder. Repeat the same thing on the other side.

Grab right shoulder with the left hand and pull it forward while looking over the shoulder. Repeat this cycle for five times in each direction.

Do this when you fell the stiffness in the neck. Avoid excess coffee and drink 6 glasses of water a day.

This can be a common problem when sitting at a desk all day.  There are a few things that can help maintain a healthy neck.
  • When you first sit at your desk, sit with improved posture.  Make sure your feet are under your knees.  Make sure your shoulders are pulled down and back.  Pull your ears over your shoulders.  At this point, make sure your computer screen and chair are appropriately set to accomodate this posture.
  • Every few minutes (when you make the time) gently stretch out your neck.  By resetting your posture with your head pulled up and neck and ears pulled back, take a deep breath and look over your shoulder.  As you exhale, look a little farther, rotating just a bit more.  Do this for both sides.  Do the same thing looking down with chin to chest.
  • Make a conscious effort to maintain your position.  As we do daily tasks in front of us, especially ones that may have a tendency to be stressful, gradually our shoulders round forward and our neck/head will tend to follow. So every 30 minutes or so, reset and pull yourself back.
  • Change things up.  Whether you just move things in your office so that you are not sitting as much or you go to stretch your legs, motion will always help you feel better.
  • Get a regular massage.  The effects of daily repetitive activities can be hard on the body.  By getting a regular massage you can help reset your posture, improve flexitility, reduce stress and reduce head aches.
  • Make sure when you work out to incorporate some neck exercises.  Do not make it anything crazy, but even some isometrics performed with good posture can help.
Our bodies crave motion and sometimes our jobs do fullfill that need.  However, there are several little things you can do during the day and more impactful things you can do once you are away from your desk.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.