Alleviate Your Computer Posture Discomfort with these Six Exercises

<printable copy of exercises>


During the course of a massage, I’ve often found muscles between the scapula and thoracic spine to be hard and tight. It also feels tight to the client, who immediately pleads with me to work right there – that’s where they want me to provide them with relief. Unfortunately, it’s out of my hands, literally! Why? These muscles are typically under tensile stress:  stretched tight (like a rubber band). They’re weak, and losing the battle against gravity. We learn this concept in the Onsen Techniques® series:  muscles that are overstretched often feel tight to the client and feel tight to the practitioner. Massage might seem like a good idea, but relief is usually temporary. Often, a more permanent solution is to strengthen these muscles.

Onsen Therapy™ typically uses a series of isometric contractions to loosen and lengthen muscles. The beauty of an isometric contraction is that it can also serve to strengthen a muscle. Below are six isometric exercises (some strengthen and some relax) that can banish your discomfort and improve your posture for these specific areas:

  • Neck (Forward Head Posture)
  • Upper Trapezius
  • Middle Trapezius (Forward Shoulder Posture)
  • Descending Trapezius (Shoulders curled Forward/Down)
  • Thoracic Erectors (Excessive Kyphotic Curve in Thoracic Spine)

A great witticism I’ve grown fond of is this: “Nobody likes to drink out of a fire hose.” This is what’s so great about these exercises: each one can be done using your body’s weight, just ONE  time, for as long as you can hold it (to fatigue).

Note:  Also read Julie’s “Ice is Nice” article on the Seattle Athletic Club’s website blog.

neckiso.Neck Isometric (Neck tension)

Perform a forward bend. Lace your fingers together and extend arms over your back/head as far as possible. Without changing your position, lift your head up in opposition. Pit these two actions against each other for 20 seconds; return to standing (slowly).

shouldershrugShoulder Shrug (Upper trapezius)

While standing, lift your shoulders as high as you can, and contract your muscles so hard that they’re trembling. Continue for 20 seconds, then lower slowly.

supermanSuperman (Descending fibers of trapezius)

Lie on your stomach (rest your forehead on the floor), extend arms out in front of you. Extend your upper arms forward at about 45 degrees; point your forearms straight forward. Lift your arms off the floor and hold to fatigue.

ironcrossIron Cross (Middle fibers of trapezius)

Lie on your stomach (resting forehead on floor), stretch your arms out to the side, perpendicular to your body like in an iron cross position (the gymnastic feat on the rings).  Make a fist, turn your thumbs up toward the ceiling and lift your arms off the floor, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Make sure your arms stay perpendicular to your body and hold to fatigue.

swandiveSwan Dive (Thoracic erectors and more!)

Lying prone with arms down at sides, lift head, neck & chest off the floor; squeeze shoulders together while externally rotating arms by sticking thumbs out like a hitch-hiker; hold to fatigue. This one relaxes the cervical & lumbar erectors while strengthening the thoracic erectors!

restyogaRestorative Yoga Pose (Your big reward!)

Using a bolster, yoga block or rolled up towel, position it horizontally, directly below the bottom edge of your shoulder blades. (If you neck is uncomfortable, place folded towel under your head.) Resting in this position for up to 5 minutes lets the force of gravity reverse the effects it has on our spines when we are upright (it bends us backward).

Onsen Technique® teaches us about the actions of muscles and their influence on the skeleton. Onsen® identifies tensile stress as one cause of the tension we feel and provides us with a new tool for relief: isometric contraction. By helping us understand the mechanics of the body better, Onsen Muscle Therapy®™ can also promote innovation, as was the case with me cooking up these exercises!