Working at a desk all day long is not only tiring but also can cause great damage to your neck and shoulder muscles. Though many people think that work-related disorders are only confined to heavy construction and the manufacturing sector, this is actually a myth. According to studies, desk workers have higher rates of neck and back pain than non-desk workers. 

Sitting for long periods puts stress on your spine, especially if you have poor posture. Over time, this may lead to major neck and back pain along with severe headaches. However, with some easy stretches, you can always fix such disorders. In this article, we will discuss a few quick and easy neck stretching exercises that you can do sitting at your desk to relieve your neck and shoulder strain.

How to stretch while sitting

There are plenty of ways you can stretch your neck and shoulder while sitting. Stretching relaxes the muscles adjacent to your cervical spine and eventually reduces your pain. However, to get the most out of the stretching exercises, it’s important to maintain the correct posture. Thus, while stretching, consider sitting in a firm chair, while keeping your lower back straight. Also, make sure to keep your feet flat on the ground. In case you need to move your arms, move your chair away from the table.

Here are some of the stretches to help neck pain that you can practice while sitting at your desk. Consider practising them regularly to improve your flexibility and reduce neck pain.

Neck extension

Neck extension is one of the easiest yet most effective neck stretches to improve your neck stiffness. To practise this exercise, look upwards and bring your head backwards to extend your neck. While practising, make sure to keep your back straight and shoulders stationary. To make the exercise effective, stretch your head backwards as far as you can without increasing the pain. Now, hold onto the position for at least 5 seconds. Gently return your head to the neutral position.

Ensure that you feel the stretch along the throat. While doing the exercise, you may feel muscles working at the back of your neck. This exercise is great for relaxing your cervical muscles and alleviating your regular neck pain.

Neck flexion

Similar to the first exercise, neck flexion is an excellent exercise for neck pain. To practise this exercise, sit on a chair and lower your chin towards your chest. Now, gradually move your head and look downwards. Flex your head forward as far as you can and hold onto the position for 5 seconds. After a nice stretch, gently return to your neutral position. To ensure that your exercise is done correctly, try to feel the stretch throughout the back of the neck. Neck flexion is an excellent exercise for loosening your posterior cervical muscles, relieving pain and reducing your spinal stress.

Lateral neck flexion

Lateral neck flexion is yet another exercise to relieve your neck pain. To do this exercise, gently move your head to one side. Ensure that your ear touches the left shoulder. During this exercise, make sure you keep your back and shoulders still while flexing your neck laterally to the side. Once you have flexed your head, try to hold onto the position for 5 seconds. Repeat the stretch in the opposite direction. While performing this exercise for neck pain, ensure that you feel the stretch along the opposite side of the flexion.

Neck rotation

For perfect neck rotation, keep your back and shoulder straight. Now, turn your head to the right without increasing your pain. Stretch as much as you can and hold to the position for at least 5 seconds. Once you feel the stretch to the opposite side, bring your head back to the neutral position. Repeat the stretch to your right side.

For people with a stiff neck, this exercise can be truly challenging. In such a scenario, rotate your neck partway to enjoy the benefits of this exercise. Apart from improving your stiffness, this exercise improves the flexibility of your neck muscles.

Shoulder rolls

If you feel stressed while working at your office, consider doing shoulder rolls. In stressful conditions, our shoulders lift up towards our ears naturally. This stress in your neck and shoulder muscles may lead to severe aches and pains. To relieve tension and lower the stress level, shoulder rolls are a great way out.

To practise shoulder rolls, lift your shoulders up and rotate them both backwards and downwards. To make the exercise more effective, take a deep breath while completing the rolls.

Consider using helpful devices

Apart from doing the above-mentioned exercises throughout the day, it is important to maintain proper posture at work. Correct posture whilst seated will reduce slouching and craning of your neck.

Using devices, such as the Yoback could help. Place one piece of the Yoback between your lower back and your chair to keep your spine straight. If you have the chance to lie down, perhaps if you are working from home, you can take a quick break and lie on the floor, placing two pieces of the Yoback between your shoulder blades and place the crown of your head on the floor. This will cause spinal traction, reducing the pressure on your cervical spine and promoting blood flow.


If you have acute neck pain and experience difficulty moving it, try the above-mentioned stretches to help your neck pain. Try to practise these exercises every day for better results. Over time, these stretches will make you feel comfortable and loosen your stiff muscles.

While working for long hours at a desk is unavoidable, there are ways to reduce chronic neck and shoulder pain. Also, remember that your pain might get worse when you are stressed. Thus, when at work, try to stay calm and do simple exercises to prevent muscle soreness and tightness. Also, practise sitting in a good posture to avoid such circumstances.


Gary Watts
Founder at eastnole | + posts

Gary is the founder of the start-up company, eastnole, which designed the Yoback, which is the world's most versatile back pain, stretching and workout product. After suffering from back pain for many years he decided to create his own product to meet his needs of being versatile, lightweight and portable. He lives in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, works as a teacher and is a keen sportsman.