In this blog post you will learn 3 simple strategies to reduce neck pain.

How many times have you heard the phrase:

“Sit up tall, keep your shoulders back and don’t slouch.

These are all too common phrases thrown around when discussing posture, especially around the upper back and neck. If you work at a desk for long periods of time you may find yourself inevitably slouching towards your computer screen.

Upper back and neck pain is a common complaint experienced by most people at some point in their lives. Spending endless hours sitting behind a desk can exacerbate these issues.

“Poor posture can account for muscle imbalances around a joint. A muscle imbalance occurs when opposing muscles around a joint can become either short and tight or weak and long.”

This can typically happen to muscles on different sides of the joint; the constant posture we remain in keep some muscles short and tight and the others long a weak – inevitably we end up with a muscle imbalance.

The most common muscle imbalance we see in the upper back and neck is known as upper cross syndrome

Upper cross syndrome is characterised by a forward head position, kyphotic (rounded) upper back, excessive upper neck extension and excessive protracted (rolled forward) shoulder blades.

Essentially when this happens we end up with those muscle imbalances we spoke about earlier.
The result is the following:

  • Weak elongated deep neck flexors (muscles in the front of our neck)
  • Weak elongated scapula muscles (muscles which control the shoulder blade)
  • Short and tight sub occipital and shoulder muscles (muscles behind the neck)
  • Short and tight pectoral and neck muscles (muscles at the front of the chest and neck)

“It is called upper cross syndrome as the long, weak muscles as well as the short, tight muscles form an X when drawn on a side view of the patient.”

Muscles contributing to upper cross syndrome

Short & Tight Muscles Long & Weak Muscles
Sub occipital extensors

Upper trapezius and levator scapula


Pectoralis major and minor

Rectus abdominus

Latissimus dossi

Subscapularis and anterior deltoid

Serrattus anterior

Lower trapezius



Teres minor

Deep neck flexors

Erector spinae

How do you treat upper neck pain?

All steps can be done concurrently or you may wish to focus on 1 for a period of time before moving on to the next

Step 1: Mobilise – From stiffness to suppleness

Tip # 1: Grab a foam roller or trigger point ball and roll out (loosen the following muscles)

  • Upper back (Thoracic spine)
  • Anterior deltoid and pectoral muscles
  • Sub occipital extensors
  • Levator scapula

Step 2: Walk tall but not stiff – from slouchy to confident

Tip # 2: Alternate between sitting upright and slouching!

While it is important to walk and sit with ‘ good posture’, it is not good to remain rigid and fixed in one position for the entire day. If you remain completely upright the entire day than your muscles can become even more rigid and stiff and contribute to more pain.

Try this instead: Think about sitting up or standing up tall with your shoulders pulled back and relaxed. Keep your head stacked over you chest and don’t let it come forward.

Then periodically throughout the day allow yourself to slouch for no longer than 10 minutes and then recover to a more upright position.

Step 3: Strengthen – From long and weak to strong!

Tip # 3: Use neck strengthening exercises to reduce neck pain

Lets just keep this simple and focus on the main muscles that we need to strengthen – “remember a muscle kept at long lengths is a weak one” – so therefore we want to strengthen that muscles in a shorter position.

I have given 3 exercises for this:

  • 1: Deep neck flexor nods in 4 point kneeling
  • 2: Deep neck flexor in sitting
  • Theraband wall semi circles

The addition of some stretches will allow you to get some length through those tight and constricted muscles

The key ones to focus on are:

  • 1: Pec stretches
  • 2: Sub occipital muscle stretches
  • 3: Levator scapula and upper trapezius muscle stretches

Bonus Step – Schedule Your 3 Step to a Pain Free Neck Expert Session

In this Expert Session you will learn:

  • What is causing your neck pain – This will stream line your treatment and make your treatment as quick as possible.
  • The 3 best self management techniques for you to keep your neck and back pain away for good.
  • Leave the session with the confidence in knowing exactly what to do to get relief of your neck pain for good – FINALLY!

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