≡ Menu

Here Are 5 Daily Habits To Help You Get Your Dream Body & Your Life Back (Without Willpower & Discipline)

My FREE guide & email course will show you how the psychology of HABITS can make you lose those 20-30 pounds, have more energy and a better life even if you’re a busy professional.

new big cover

Why You Have Shoulder Injuries, A Stiff Neck & Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (And How To Fix Them)

Neck Pain

Why Your Neck Is Freaking Killing You, And You Keep Getting Shoulder/Elbow Issues (Neck Pain And Shoulder Pain 101)

Working at a computer for 10 hours is a beautiful thing – assuming of course, you actually like permanently damaging your neck and spine.

Guess what – if you keep getting stiff or sore necks, burning between your shoulder blades, carpal tunnel syndrome, or a whole host of other upper-back/neck issues, you are not alone.

This is what I call “computer caveman syndrome” and is basically what is becoming of many of us 21st century computer users.

If You Have Rotator Cuff/Shoulder Issues, Frozen Shoulder, Neck Pain/Stiff Neck, Headaches Or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

upper crossed syndrome

Ahhh I hate my computer.

In geek speak, upper crossed syndrome means your neck is poking out and your shoulders are hunched over.

It’s increasingly the posture that a lot of young kids (and adults) are having because they spend hours on a computer a day, which naturally results in a couple things:

A head that pokes out. The neck goes into flexion — and starts poking out, meaning the traps and neck muscles go into overdrive to still hold it up (stiff neck?). Some of you probably can’t get comfortable while sleeping (neck pain), or have been suffering from headaches — if so, your head position throughout the day should be the first thing you evaluate.

Sternocleidomastoideus

Sternocleidomastoid – One of the tightened, shortened muscles. From Wikipedia.

The shoulders meanwhile roll forward and get hunched — limiting their ability to rotate outwards. This is part of the reason why you’re probably getting lots of rotator cuff injuries or elbow injuries like tennis elbow.

You’re also probably getting burning between the shoulder blades, and/or numbness in one arm, hand or fingers.

If you’re a weightlifter, you most likely have experienced biceps tendonitis or repeated shoulder issues.

What’s going on:

What’s going on here is that the neck muscles are in overdrive because they are sticking out and trying to fight gravity – imagine trying to hold a 10lb ball over your head!

It’s easy when it’s straight up, but try holding it at a 45 degree angle. Hard.

Now you know what your neck is going through when it isn’t aligned properly. It’s fighting gravity constantly to try and stay aligned, which is a hell of a lot of work that your neck muscles don’t like.

The other big thing (aside from the neck) is that the shoulder blades are elevated and higher up, rather than kept back and low.  Pretty standard stuff if you sit at a computer all day. It sucks.

Priority: Return the shoulder and neck alignment to normal.

How to fix it -

  1. Stretch/relax the shortened muscles: basically all the muscles in the upper back and neck, like the trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and the chest muscles like the pectoralis
  2. Re-align the neck and shoulders: get that neck re-aligned, and get those shoulders back and pushed back down

For your neck:

1. Static back (5 min, 20 min if you have burning between shoulder blades)

IMG_3230

Directions:

The legs should be at a 90 degree angle, and the shoulders and head should naturally rest on the ground and flatten.

Hold for 5 minutes if you have neck pain.

If you have shoulder issues or burning between shoulder blades, hold for up to 20 minutes.

2. Static wall (5 min)

IMG_3241

Directions:

Try to get your butt as close to the wall as possible. Flex the feet back until you feel a strong hamstring stretch.

Hold for 3-5 minutes, and keep the feet flexed back.

3. Sitting floor (5 min)

IMG_3234

Directions:

Try to back your butt up against the wall, and then pull your shoulder blades back and let them press flat against the wall.

Flex the feet back towards you.

Make sure the head stays back pressed against the wall naturally.

Let the hands rest palm-up in your lap.

Hold for 4 minutes.

For your shoulders:

1. Wall Pec Stretch (Two sets of 30 seconds, each side)

pec wall stretch

Directions:

Put one arm against a door way or piece of furniture and stretch – do two sets of 30 seconds on each side.

2. Static back (hold for 20 mins)

IMG_3230

Directions:

The legs should be at a 90 degree angle, and the shoulders and head shoulder naturally rest on the ground and flatten.

Hold 10 minutes. If you have shoulder issues or burning between shoulder blades, hold for up to 20 minutes.

3. Sitting floor

IMG_3234

Directions:

Try to back your butt up against the wall, and then pull your shoulder blades back and let them press flat against the wall.

Flex the feet back towards you.

Make sure the head stays back pressed against the wall naturally.

Let the hands rest palm-up in your lap.

Hold for 4 minutes.

4. Broom external rotations

Broom external rotate

Directions:

Grab a broom or stick in one wrist, and rotate it over your shoulder. Grab with the other hand and pull upwards until you feel a deep stretch in the shoulder.

Do two sets of 30 seconds on each side.

5. Reverse Rotations and Wall Clock (The BEST Shoulder/Elbow Pain Exercises)

Upper Crossed Syndrome Recap:

Upper crossed syndrome is modern computer user caveman syndrome. It’s what caused me the vast majority of pain in the past few years, as well as chronic shoulder injuries, neck pain, and burning upper back pain.

What’s basically going on is that the upper back and shoulders are not aligned with the rest of the body, they’re kind of just hanging there. The shoulders hunch forward, the neck muscles go into overdrive, and the neck sticks out and basically gets stuck fighting gravity.

== Pain.

This is the beginning of a long line of issues and pain. From here a number of things can happen, headaches can set in from the pinched nerves and reduced oxygen flow in the neck, constant neck pain and stiffness can occur, frozen shoulder can start setting in, etc.

For those of you with any sort of neck pain, shoulder issues (especially frozen shoulder), or even TMJ I would suggest watching this 2 minute video:

How Often Should I Do All These Things?

If you’ve been repeatedly getting the same injuries or pain, then you should probably just incorporate these into a 5 – 10 minute mobility session 5+ times a week.

The postural exercises should be done every day if you are in pain.

Why You’re Suffering From Chronic Pain

In my own experience these are mostly side effects of sedentary life.

Being sedentary does two major things:

  1. A. Lets muscles atrophy (basically everything if you aren’t exercising)
  2. B. Tightens certain muscle groups (like the hips and groin, or neck and back)

The result? These two things lead to poor bodily alignment.

Poor bodily alignment leads us to a few things:

  1. Chronic tension (like upper back pain from hunching over a computer all day).
  2. Improper muscle activation and bio-mechanics when exercising (back pain or knee pain when running? Shoulder pain when bench-pressing or doing pushups?)
  3. Forces certain body parts into positions they don’t like being in (like your neck from looking at a computer screen.)

These all lead us down the road to chronic pain.

Just check out my “Why Cavemen Never Had Backpain” post. Look at the pictures of people’s posture in the 1800s and 1900s compared to now. It’s scary.

A lot has changed in the last hundred years. We really do need to treat health as modern health. The requirements for modern humans to get healthy, fix pain, or lose weight are far different from someone 100 years ago.

Anyway, try those out and let me know how it goes!

– Alex

Get Your Free Starter’s Kit (Click Me!)

35 comments… add one

  1. a very good post…
    thanks for the upload…
    kepp up the good work..

    Reply
    1. No problem ! Shoot me an email if you have any questions –

      Best,
      Alex

      Reply
      1. When I do push ups my left pec is bigger than the right. I once tweeked my neck awhile ago, do you think it’s has something to do with this?

        Reply
        1. Hey John,

          Hard to say. Most people have slight imbalances like this just because they favor one arm over the other.

          Reply
      2. Hi Alex,
        I have this stiff neck for a long while now but I still workout. Recently while doing pullover after a 2 weeks break, I got pain in my neck. Do you suggest me to continue workout or should I wait until pain subsides completely. Apart from this pain my neck is stiff all the time. when I look up I get pain, I get stiffness in the bottom neck portion.
        Your suggestion on this would be highly appreciated..Thanks in advance.

        Reply
        1. Hi Yogesh,

          Definitely wait until the pain is gone. Also read this article too, it will help: http://modernhealthmonk.com/neck-and-shoulder-pain/

          Reply
  2. Thanks for the exercises! I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel way back in 1991 and even after treatment, according to a sports physician that I saw a few years ago, its still there. In 1997 I was doing pull down weights (not really heavy) at a gym and woke up in massive pain in my shoulder and arm, thinking I was having a heart attack. Turns out it was the C7 vertebrae cupping and hitting the nerve line, causing an interrupted signal to the upper muscles in my arms. Not a whole lot I could do, exercises, pt and unfortunately not a lot of insurance. Here I am 15 years later and after cleaning out my mother’s house after her death, the pain (and I’m sure the emotional and physical stress didn’t help) is back in the upper shoulder. It probably doesn’t help that I do research on the computer for several hours of the day. Thanks for the exercises, I will give them an honest try! Doesn’t help that I’m now 51 and about 20 pounds overweight, between the stress of the last year or so and menopause, its been a fun time :) I’ll let you know how the exercises go and will pass this on to my fiance who works at a computer all day and has started experiencing elbow and neck pain.

    Reply
    1. Hi Catherine,

      I would highly recommend checking out pete egoscue’s book “Pain Free at Your PC.” One of the few guys that really knows what he’s talking about.

      Definitely let me know how these exercises go! They have been a lifesaver to me.

      Cheers,
      Alexander

      Reply
  3. For those of you with any sort of neck pain, shoulder issues (especially frozen shoulder), or even TMJ I would suggest watching this 2 minute video: ———————— I have this and I have to try this exercise and find the results after 5 days. I’ll be back here if I feel the relief. Sounds like everything that I felt was discussed in the video. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  4. I don’t sit near a desk too long but I get neck stiff very often. But my posture is what you described. Is there anyway to correct it…coz I try to remind myself but I find myself hunching. Which has become my normal posture.a permanent hunch….what can I do to correct my posture?

    Reply
    1. Hi Raal,

      What position are you usually in during the day?

      One tip is to put a 6″ thick towel behind your lower back if you’re sitting. That’ll force you to stay upright.

      Also, after a long day of staying hunched over, just put your feet up on a piece of furniture and lay down flat on your back (like I showed here: http://modernhealthmonk.com/fixing-lower-back-pain/ ). That’ll help re-establish the natural curve in your back and provide some relief.

      – Alex

      Reply
  5. Alex,
    I have a job which makes me sit in front of computer all day, i was getting this shoulder , neck & head pain. There was a time when my left hand went numb, visited ortho, neurosurgeon, TMJ and there was no use. Use to feel always a pulling in left Sternocleidomastoid. When i visited ur website and tried the massage u have mentioned it give me lot of releif. But when i try SCM neck exercises and stretches it starts paining again. Should i stop doing the strech & exercises ?

    Reply
    1. Hi Reena,

      Yes, stop anything that causes immediate pain. Continue with anything that provided relief.

      Best,
      Alex

      Reply
  6. Greetings from the UK!

    Just wanted to say a thank you for your blog as its given me more motivation to do something about my situation. I’m in my early 20s but definitely suffer from this 21st century affliction (kyphosis, “RSI” all over, and stiffness to which my doctor just replies “take some painkillers”!).

    When I see manual labourers (some twice my age!) and athletes using their bodies day in and day out without problems, I realise that I shouldn’t just have to accept constant pain and persistent injuries from simple everyday activities.

    Cheers again.

    Reply
    1. Hi Rich,

      I’m glad to have helped inspire you to start taking some action. What is the #1 biggest pain you have right now? If you give me some specifics maybe I can help.

      Best,
      Alex

      Reply
  7. hi.

    2 months ago I have sensation burnt my neck,shoulder and spine I did MRI is negative I have used alots medicine, and I went many doctors nerologist, aurthophatic. physiothropy I don’t know what happend I am getting crazy I think my life is suck :( I am totally depressed about this pain and burning. my work is sitting all time in computer :( plezz help me I hope you give me better advice
    thanks.

    Reply
    1. Hi Alexander,

      Where specifically is the pain? Is it burning between the shoulder blades?

      Reply
  8. aHA! I knew these were somehow ALL related! I have ulnar nerve compression, Shoulder Impingement, and a nagging muscle between my shoulder blades next to my spine. The latter has been previously sussed out by a cranio-sacral therapist, however, my shoulder and ulnar nerve compression were not dealt with at the time, as I wasn’t doing a lot of sports then, thus they weren’t bothering me.

    Problem is, I don’t sit at a computer, but I am on a mountain bike, ALOT. I do a lot of yoga/style stretching to try and loosen up this upper back area, and strengthening at the gym of my back, but the issue of the nagging muscle between my shoulder blade and spine and my shoulder problems have not gone away.

    Thanks for confirming my suspicion that these physical problems are related!

    Reply
  9. Amazing stuff. Literally have been in pain for almost a year and found out about upper cross syndrome and your exercises are definitely firing up some muscles that have not been worked in awhile and some very tight. I did take a blow to the left rib this April and nothing was broken but when I do the elbow shoulder video exercise the other side of the sternum feels so sore and tight that it got me winded. Any idea why? Should I use ice or heat after this workout for problem areas? Thanks so much. You’re a God send

    Reply
    1. Cheers Nichole! Glad I could help a bit.

      So you’re saying the exercise where you clasp your hands and put them over your head?

      Generally, I would use ice for swelling or an acute injury, and then use heat for a more nagging chronic injury.

      Reply
  10. Kudos to you Alex ! Noted a lot of improvements in my shoulder pain doing these exercises!

    Reply
  11. Great Post! Explains exactly the problems I’m facing with my neck and shoulder. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. You’re welcome Kasey!

      Reply
  12. Hi,
    I had rotator cuff tendonitis and now under treatment for almost 3 months but from last week have burning pain between my shoulder blades when i wake up in the morning and while at work. Is this correlated or something different
    Thanks
    Maxim

    Reply
    1. Hi Maxim – chances are it’s related. See this guide: http://modernhealthmonk.com/neck-and-shoulder-pain/

      Reply
  13. I have been having tingling right below my shoulders and sometimes near the neck for about 6 months now. There is no pain, just annoyance, but does that have anything to do with posture problems? I do sit at a desk all day. My shoulder blades are also sore when pressed. I am thinking its a posture problem.

    Reply
    1. Heather – definitely sounds like it could be. Worst comes to worst, do this daily panel of exercises and let me know how you feel!

      Reply
  14. Hi, i have had pain in my neck and left upper back when i turn my neck, then the pain stopped in my neck and when i turned my head my left shoulder hurt, now when i turn my head my arm and elbow is hurtiing..what is wrong?

    Reply
    1. Hi Kim, did you see this guide yet?
      http://modernhealthmonk.com/neck-and-shoulder-pain/

      Best,
      Alex

      Reply
  15. Hey! Thank You so much for these exercises! Im adding it to my daily routine but they do feel great!!! I am 24 and have been suffering with chronic headaches, back, neck, jaw and shoulder pain on and off for 7 years and the last 3 years daily, making it almost impossible for me to sit longer than an hour without getting up and stretching. I am making sure I am frequently active though not intensely due to the pain, stretch often, have a proper diet in place, quit smoking and drinking but the pain continues, I have seen neurologists, osteos, physios, chiros but noone has been able to help me, either they make it worse, have no effect or give me pills and they all say different things, I am desperate for a solution as it is begining to feel as though I can only dream about a day without pain, do you have any idea what could be wrong with me?

    Reply
    1. Julia – I have seen many people resolve issues like this by going through a panel similar to what’s recommended here. Particularly focus on the suboccipital and sternocleidomastoid. Go through this guide completely.

      Reply
  16. Hi Alex,
    I sit at a computer all day and use the laptop in bed a lot as well. Lately, my back left shoulder blade, my left shoulder (just to left of heart) and my left forearm have been throbbing for 2 weeks all day long. It is quite distracting. What do you recommend?

    Reply
    1. Definitely because of hunched shoulders. I would just try a different position – try working on your stomach for a few days and you’ll see it will go away. Or better yet, just try a standing desk. If you want to stick in the same position, you’d have to pull those shoulder blades back while working.

      Reply
  17. omgosh thank you, I have been dealing with this for years and have not gotten relief not even from chiropractic work!

    Reply
    1. No problem :-)

      Reply

Leave a Comment