Neck Pain Relief For Alpha-Geeks And Desk-Jockeys

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neck pain relief exercises

Chances are somewhere around half of the people reading this (yeah, that’s you) will suffer either a stiff, painful neck and shoulders right now or will have them by the end of the workday.

Alpha-geeks and desk-jockeys are particularly at risk because of notoriously bad ergonomics (dude, we can’t all have Aeron chairs, floating double monitors and ergo-keyboards) and often long-hours spent with very little movement beyond the classic 3pm Red Bull twitch. Which is why…

A recent study out of Denmark is amazing news for neck and shoulder pain relief.

This study by Denmark’s National Research Centre For The Working Environment looked at a group of 94 women. Seventy-nine percent of the participants worked on a keyboard for at least 75% of each day.

And, all had been diagnosed with trapezius myalgia.

That’s a fancy way of saying “that big muscle that runs down the neck, across the top of your shoulders and down the center of your back…is tight, tender and hurts like a mother. Along with trigger points, these symptoms can often graduate to headaches, too

Participants were split into 3 groups. One did nothing, we’ll call this group the Slackers. Another did general fitness conditioning, we’ll call them the Fondettes. And, a third group, the Alpha-Geek Muscle-Marauders, did three simple shoulder and neck exercises (demonstrated below), three times a week. The study lasted 10 weeks, guess what happened?

The Slackers, well, they got no relief. No big surprise there. The Fondettes saw minimal relief and it only lasted a short period after exercise. But…

The Alpha-Geek Muscle-Marauders totally rawked neck pain!

Yup, the last group, the one that did 3 simple exercises, 3 times a week showed tremendous improvement in neck pain, leading the researchers to proclaim, in three part harmony (you know those Denmarkians),

“Based on the present results, supervised high-intensity dynamic strength training of the painful muscle 3 times a week for 20 minutes should be recommended in the treatment of trapezius myalgia.”

Translation–got a pain in the neck, get thee to the gym!

Does this mean all neck pain will be cured by three magic exercises done three times a week? No, don’t be silly, there could be all sorts of other things going on. And, as always, the recovering-lawyer in me needs to put out there that you should always seek the advice of a qualified health care professional before beginning any new fitness or well-care regime.

But, for those suffering from tightness, tenderness and pain in the trapezius, this might be an interesting, free, fairly easy solution, so ask your fitness/health care person about it.

Here are the three exercises that helped relieve neck pain.

Each one should be done 3 times a week on non-consecutive days, 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. Begin with light weights (2 pound dumbbells, then graduate as your strength accommodates). For best/safest results, have a fitness professional show you proper form.

Neck Pain Relief Exercise #1: Shoulder Shrugs

Stand with your arms by your sides, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your hands facing your body. As you exhale, shrug your shoulder tops up toward your ears, pause at the top, then release as you inhale.

shoulder shrug

Neck Pain Relief Exercise #2: Reverse Flies

Stand with soft knees, hold dumbbells in hands, bend forward 45-90 degrees, keeping your back long. and stomach drawn lightly in. Bend your elbows just a little, then on an exhale draw your shoulder blades together like you were squeezing a pen between them and flare your arms slowly out to the sides. Pause at the top for a second, then relax back down as you inhale.

reverse flies

Neck Pain Relief Exercise #3: Upright Row

Stand with your arms by your sides, holding dumbbells lightly against the front of your thighs with your palms facing in. With an exhale, begin to slide the dumbbells up the front of your body until they reach the collarbones, flaring your elbows to the sides. Pause at the top, then inhale as you lower.

As you can see, I finally went the extra mile and hired a professional photographer to do this shoot, so I could focus entirely on form (For those, new to the blog, um, that was a joke, no photographer was paid, nor were any photographers harmed).

So, what do you guys think? Look interesting? Anyone willing to give it a try and report back? I know I am going to.

And, how about my jazzy t-shirt designs (note to self, will have to start selling them at next year’s SXSW)?

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16 responses

16 responses to “Neck Pain Relief For Alpha-Geeks And Desk-Jockeys”

  1. Health says:

    […] Continue Reading […]

  2. Sassy pics!

    Ok, the most important exercise you are missing is to get away of your desk every hour or so. I know a lot of programmers who get in the zone so much that they don’t take their eyes off the screen for 8 hours straight.

    The plus is that it is also good for your eyes.

    Though I would love to see the cuties at my office rocking the shoulder shrug.

  3. […] and I’m still here with the same goals and V.A.S.T. ideals. My Internet community is always “on,” alpha geek neck pain and all, so I’m brunching y’all. Scones […]

  4. […] Go to the author’s original blog: Neck Pain Relief For Alpha-Geeks And Desk-Jockeys […]

  5. Kelly says:


    Exercises 1 and 2 are already part of my day (when I’m not being a bum) and I can vouch for them heartily. I haven’t done the upright row for a long time (no reason except I haven’t thought of it). I think I’ll add it back in.

    Funny enough, I thought from the top photo you were going to mention giving yourself a mini-massage (is that her own hands?), which I also recommend if you don’t have a friend to do it for you. I stop a couple of times in the day, if it’s an all-computer day, for a few minutes of neck-shoulder massage. Makes life a lot more bearable.



  6. Shama Hyder says:

    Totally great post! VERY needed.

    Jonathan one thing my physical therapist showed me was to stand in front of a door, put each hand on either side and lean forward. It stretches out shoulders, chest, and neck. Perhaps you can find a picture for it!

    I know it’s been very useful for me.


  7. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Hayden – Yeah, pretty tricked out pics, eh?! Good point about taking breaks, especially when you’re in the zone.

    @ Kelly – Hey, if you wanna throw in a nice shoulder massage three times a week, who am I to say no?! 😉

    @ Shama – That is a great stretch, releases the front of the shoulders and chest, which often gets really locked down working in front of a desk.

    There are actually some pretty cool, yet simple yoga therapy sequences I know for neck, shoulder and head pain, I think I might share them in a later post.

  8. Kelly says:


    He he he.

    If I could email massages, I’d be retired from what I do now, even though I love it. The demand for e-massage ought to be astronomical!

    Until later,


  9. Lisa Wilder says:


    Great post. I’ve had trapezius myalgia (although I’d never have known to call it that…lol) and headaches off and on for years and I’ve tried a variety of exercises/stretches without much result. I’ll be giving these a try for sure, and I’d love, love, LOVE, for you to share the simple yoga sequences you mentioned.


  10. Jamie says:

    I’m curious as to why those three exercises were chosen.

    I deal with clients whom suffer from Trapezius Myalgia on a regular basis. Usually the cause is OVER active traps not under active. In which case doing exercises to directly strengthen the muscle would most likely cause even more problems.

    I’ll normally prescribe rear delt flys but the other two exercises I tend to steer away from.

    I suspect a lot of the relief may come from the increased blood flow to the area and less from the actual strengthening.

    My 2 cents.

  11. Lena says:

    You just healed my neck pain with laughter distraction therapy. Your wacky drawn wigs gave me some quick temporary relief.

  12. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Lisa – will work on the yoga sequence for a follow-up post

    @ Jamie – Interesting question, I think you keyed in on the answer. Part of the issue may in fact be myofascial trigger points, which the trapezius is loaded with. So, the simple act of returning movement, blood flow, oxygen and stronger neurological stimulation at a gentle level (2 lb dumbbells) could be enough to begin to release trigger points. Plus, any movement helps free up the fascia around and within muscle.

    Your question really speaks to the bigger issue with all research that involves a fitness protocol and a health benefit. They are are “correlative,” not “causative.” They can correlate doing a particular activity with a specific benefit, but cannot show how that activity actually “causes” the benefit.

  13. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Lena – By any means necessary, even laughter! 😉

  14. Sandie Law says:

    So that’s what it’s called…I suffer from that trap pain and the resulting headaches suck donkey balls. I’m flagging this post for workouts! By the way, totally rockin’ pictures! \m/

  15. Tobi says:

    you should stop wearing green…
    blue is your color…

  16. neck pain is important you can see some execises here