Student-athletes spend a majority of their day seated at a desk at school or doing homework. This seated position creates a tendency for the head and neck to tilt forward and can result in poor posture, which can cause neck pain and even headaches—the last thing you want before a big game. Either one can distract you and dim your focus.
Use these few simple tips throughout the day to help prevent or alleviate neck pain.
1) Improve Your Ergonomics. Is your chair too high or your desk too low? If so, you’ll find yourself having to roll your neck forward and down to read and study. Ideally, the ledge of your desk or table should be between your sternum and your navel. Also, consider adjusting the height of your computer screen so your eyes are in line with the upper third section of the monitor.
2) Stretch Your Neck. Performing the gentle stretches described below at your desk throughout the day can go a long way in reducing or preventing neck pain.
Neck Roll Stretch
Assume seated position with neck and head upright and ears directly over middle of shoulders. Tuck chin into chest and rotate neck to right until chin touches shoulder. Slowly extend neck so ear is slightly behind shoulder, putting tension on neck. Hold for two seconds. Roll back to center and repeat on opposite side. Perform two to five rotations each direction.
3) Strengthen Your Neck. Regularly perform low-intensity neck strengthening exercises throughout the day. Exercises such as Retractions and Shoulder Rolls stimulate the under-active muscles in the front of the neck. This is particularly helpful for tall athletes who constantly look down throughout the day.
Assume seated position with neck and head upright and ears directly over middle of shoulders. Tuck chin into chest onto collarbone and hold for one second. Release and return to start position. Repeat for specified reps. Perform one to two sets of six to eight reps.
Assume seated position with neck and head upright, ears directly over middle of shoulders and hands on thighs slightly behind knees. Roll shoulders backward in a circular motion for specified time. Perform one to two sets of 20 to 30 seconds each set.
Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a wide variety of topics, including injury prevention, nutrition and improving athletic performance.