A few weeks ago I was at a spin/yoga combo class at Endorphin and had the great fortune of being led by Steph Maes, who also happens to be a massage therapist. When the yoga portion had finished she said that there was one more thing she wanted to share with us – how to stretch the fascia to relieve tension and prevent “text neck.”
You’ve seen those people who over time develop a hunch in their upper backs, reminiscent of bending over a book, keyboard, or phone. This is “text neck,” and as it turns out, you can prevent it! Aside from getting your eyes off of your screen and practicing correct posture (check out the Greatist’s Ultimate Guide to Good Posture here), you can also combat the effects of habitual technology use by stretching your fascia.
First things first – what the heck is your fascia anyway? Basically, your fascia is the layer of connective tissue that sits just below your skin. It’s purpose is to attach, organize, and stabilize all of your internal bits – think of it as one big flexible mesh bag that keeps you together (Want more details? Check out this Mind Body Green rundown). When you’re stretching your muscles, you’re also stretching your fascia. When you move your arms up, your fascia is pulling all the way down to your feet. Because the fascia is all interconnected and affects each and every part of your body, I heard a lot about it from both trainers and coaches as an athlete. Also, for a fun fascia fact, this article from GOOP says that stretching your fascia can even change the shape of your body – literally making you taller and leaner.
So what does this have to do with posture and neck pain? Steph said that the pain in your neck and the hunch in your back could be caused by your fascia bunching up in the front of your chest from constantly bending forwards. Your neck tries to compensate for this bunching by pulling backwards – it is this battle between the neck pulling back and the fascia bunching in the front that causes strain and turns you into a hunchback. But all is not lost!
Now that you know what you’re stretching and why you’re stretching it, here’s how to stretch it (see the GIF of Josh above for a visual aid):
- Place your hands one over top of the other on your chest right below your collar bone. Now gently apply light pressure and pull downwards. This motion is gripping the fascia underneath your skin. Slowly tilt your head to the opposite side of the body looking straight forward until you feel a nice stretch and hold for at least 20 seconds (or until you feel satisfied). The cool thing here is that your hands may actually start to slowly move further downwards – this is your fascia releasing!
- Gently release the stretch and move your hands slightly inwards. Pull downwards again, but this time tilt your head upwards. This should feel a bit different than the first stretch. Hold and release.
- Next, place your hands directly in the center of your chest. Pull down and tilt your head straight back. Depending on how tight you are, this could be very intense and you may even feel a tugging all the way up in your lower lip. Hold and release.
- Repeat the first two steps on the other side of your body, first with your hands slightly in and head tilted up (#2) then with your hands all the way over and head tilted to the side (#1), moving in a series across the body like the GIF of Josh above.
You’re done! Now stand tall and go rule the world!