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Simple office exercises for neck and upper back pain

By Caitlin McPhee
Physiotherapist at Life Ready Physio + Pilates Perth CBD


For majority of us, long hours at work tend to be the norm and sitting down is non-negotiable. Often times we find that we have been sitting for 3+ hours without even realising. It’s no wonder that one of the most common complaints physiotherapists see is neck and upper back pain!

This type of neck and upper back pain is often precipitated by poor posture or improper positioning of your head whilst looking at your computer screen. And is often exacerbated in times of stress! The classic “tech neck” or forward poke posture is common among office workers, and may increase the mechanical load on the neck by 3-5x that of normal alignment, meaning that your muscles have to work harder to sustain this position over longer periods of time.

Long hours at the desk not only results in pain, but may reduce mental capacity and output. Making us less productive and more likely to burn out. If only we could just step away from our desk for a moment?

Fortunately, there are simple exercises that you can do at your desk to alleviate and prevent this pain from happening.

  • Seated spinal rotation

Sitting up nice and tall, place your hands around the back of your chair, twisting through your thoracic spine. Take three big deep breaths in each direction to help to unlock your ribcage (increase breathing capacity) and increase mobility in your thoracic spine

  • Neck rolls

Make small circles like you are drawing around a 20c coin with your nose. Helping to increase mobility in your upper cervical neck, which is often where cervicogenic headaches arise from.

  • Upper neck and shoulder stretch

Anchor your shoulders down by sitting on your hands, gently tilt your head across to the left and right side, holding for 5-10 seconds and repeating 2-3x each side.

  • Get up and move!

The number one best thing that you can do for your mental and physical capacity is to take some time away from your desk. Regular breaks will help to relieve any tightness that you may be experiencing whilst sitting whilst also giving your mind a short break to reset and then come back to the task at hand.

If your symptoms persist, book in to Life Ready Physio + Pilates Perth CBD today!

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