Has it happened to you? One day you could drop and play Twister at any moment,  the next day your neck is so stiff you can barely look down to read your phone. Yes, with everything else going on today, neck and shoulder stiffness is a minor issue, but if your body is tense, so (likely) is your mind. If you’ve been stiff, sore, or just plain out of place since working from home and self-isolation began, try these tips for sore neck and back relief.

If You Want Quick and Dirty: Try Theragun

Have you tried this devilishly good little monster? Or maybe watched one of the satisfying slow-motion video ads of it in action, tight muscles rippling outward? Ugh, well I got one for Christmas and let me tell you – worth the money. It’s percussive therapy in your hand. The industrial-grade motor reaches 60% deeper into muscle than the average massager, at 40 times a second (according to the website). Use this bad boy on your tight traps, shoulders, and back. Grab a friend to help you, but the handle does really make it easy to maneuver around to anywhere. Bonus: right now they are having a huge sale.

For Relief While You’re Sitting: A Portable Massager

I can’t speak for how this Shiatsu back and shoulder massager works, but I did just buy it as a birthday gift, and the reviews are off the charts. Wrap this bad boy around your shoulders for neck, shoulder, and upper back relief, or around your lower back for relief on the go. It features 8 deep tissue kneading nodes, a heating option, and speed adjustments. Wear it at your at-home desk or heck – even during your Zoom meeting! No one has to know.  

To Develop Good Habits: Stretching

Ugh, I know. We all want a quick fix, but really, if your neck, shoulder, and back muscles are stiff and sore, you probably need to start stretching them regularly. Simple neck rolls, arm circles, even just nodding your head are technically “stretches” that get your muscles moving and loosen them up. For some key stretches, try the ones linked here, which include a seated neck release stretch, a behind-the-back neck stretch, and more. You can do them from your chair or on the ground. Yoga With Adriene offers a great free ten-minute yoga practice for neck, shoulders, and back on YouTube.

Better Yet: Make a Standing Desk

Standing desks seem to be all the rage these days – and for good reason. Healthline offers these seven health benefits of a standing desk from lowering the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity to – you guessed it – reducing back pain. Many proponents say it boosts productivity, too. Try these one of these top five standing desk converters from CNET so you can convert your at-home work space to a standing desk; you can also just stack your laptop on some books- boom!

To Really Dig Deep: Try a Foam Roller

Ok, this falls under the same category as stretching. No one looks forward to it, but to fix a deep problem, you just gotta put in the work. Foam Rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique that can relieve tight muscles and soreness. I put my foam roller to work on the terrible knots in my upper back and shoulder area, but you can use it to target any part of your body. I lay on my back, knees bent, hands under my head, and roll on the roller under my upper back area and turned slightly to follow my trapezius muscles. If you lay on it vertically, you can feel your shoulders release. Honestly, true relief. It really gets into the knots. Try this guide to foam roller exercises or this video. I use roller with ridges in it, but you can use a smooth one – both get the job done.

For the Stubborn Knot: Take a Ball

Similar to the foam roller technique, but for the serious stubborn knot that won’t go away. Grab any ball on hand – tennis, lacrosse, billiards?, etc. and roll your back on it. If you have an exact spot on your back, roll the ball to it and hold for 90 seconds. I read this in a few places, tried it, and it actually does work. You can roll on the ground or against the wall. 

For True Relaxation: Try Alexander Technique

Those in the theatre or performing arts will be familiar with Alexander Technique, but for those who are not, it’s a practice of  “active rest” to relieve unnecessary tension and improve your body alignment. Lay in the semi-supine position: find a spot on the ground (flat), grab a couple of books to rest your head on at a height that is comfortable, with knees in the air and feet flat on the ground. Then take some deep breaths and actively think of each muscle or area in your body and let go of the tension. Seriously,  I can feel my entire relax when I do this. From this position, sometimes I turn my head left and right a few times and feel the gentle stretch if my neck is extra tight. The experts say doing this just ten-twenty minutes a day can work wonders for the body. Bonus, the breath work can count as meditation; try these free guided meditations from Headspace for the ultimate mind-body restoration (let’s be real, tension is as much mental as it is physical).

Bonus: Try a CBD Cream 

The jury is still split as to whether or not cannabis products are true saviors or all talk, but for those who love them, but initial research shows CBD can reduce inflammation and combat anxiety. Proponents swear by creams and gels  for stress release, muscle relaxation, and overall calming effect. Apply some to your sore or stiff muscles and let it work their magic. The stronger the concentration, the more likely you’ll feel the effects. This is one Bidtellectual’s favorite and CannaCraft offers great resources and products, too.

That’s it! With these tips, your tight and sore neck, shoulder, and back should loosen up and feel better. Again, sometimes it takes incorporating a new practice or trying several different changes before you find relief. Stay healthy.

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