4 Causes of Writers’ Neck and Shoulder Pain.

My beautiful pictureCaught up in the flow of writing, the last thing on my mind is how I am sitting. I only think about that when an actual pain starts interfering with my writing. An aching shoulder, a stiff neck…

For most of last year I was unable to sit and write for any length of time. The hours I sat at the computer didn’t cause the initial problem (I’d over-extended in an anti-gravity yoga class) but they certainly made the pain a whole lot worse.

What I needed to check:

* chin jutting forward? Don’t jam it back in – rather, make sure your ears are over your shoulders and pull up through the top of your head. Try to keep the length the same front and back.

* chin tucked in too tightly and focusing down? Imagine a tennis ball under your chin! And again, pull up through the top of your head.

Are you doing this because your laptop is too low? I bought a Rain Design mStand – just perfect.

* shoulders hunched up? Tense?

Put your hands on your head so your elbows stick out each side. Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears, then let them drop down. Repeat several times. Then bring your hands down. Your shoulders should be in about the right place.

* spine in a C-shape with your shoulders slumped forward? Or the reverse – is your spine like half a number 3 with your chest/sternum, navel and pelvis pushing forward like the figurehead on the prow of a ship?

Sit right on top of your sitz bones and as you press into them, lift up through your spine and up through the crown of your head. Tilt your pelvis slowly forward and then back, then come to rest in the centre (let the rest of the spine follow as you move, including your head – should feel like a centipede). Shoulders over pelvis, ears over shoulders.

I find the most comfortable position – straight and relaxed and shoulders down – is when I sit slightly back of 90 degrees.

Don’t hold or lock into what you might think is a ‘right’ position. Keep relaxed and fluid. Vary your chair occasionally, or try sitting on a large exercise ball or an inflatable exercise disc or fit-disc.

Close your eyes for a moment and when you breathe in, imagine that you are breathing into your spine, that your breath is creating spaces between the vertebrae. You will find all sorts of muscles relaxing in your back!

Here are some exercises I enjoy and find helpful before and after a writing session:

1) clasp hands behind your back, interlacing your fingers. Pull clasped hands down as you look up to the ceiling. Even better if you do this standing and rise on tiptoe as you look up and pull hands down.

2) right hand holds left wrist behind your back; right ear tilts (gently) to right shoulder; turn head to look down over right shoulder and hold; look forward again so ear once more to shoulder; come back to centre. Right ear to right shoulder again, and this time turn head to look up towards the left and hold, right ear back to right shoulder; come back to centre. Repeat on the other side. The idea is not to see how far your head can go, but to move gently, just enough to ease any stiffness.

3) Hold left wrist in right hand above your head, pull upwards and over to the right, more upwards so you feel the spaces between the ribs opening. While you pull, be sure to keep left buttock on the chair. Repeat on the other side.

And remember: if any exercise makes the pain worse or is uncomfortable. STOP right away.

Adding this very useful link 28 March 2017: Cervical Exercise: The Backbone of Spine Treatment from the North American Spine Society.


25 thoughts on “4 Causes of Writers’ Neck and Shoulder Pain.

    • So do I! Which means also the chin forward thing! I’d had no pain since I wrote this post but just this last week I noticed my neck was so painful. So I reread my post and started all over again. It’s so hard to always be aware of how you’re sitting, especially when you get caught up in writing. Good luck with overcoming the shoulder hunch.


    • Thanks for letting me know you found it helpful. I hope the exercises work for you. I find I keep having to remind myself to do the exercises even when things have improved. Good luck with resolving your neck and shoulder issues.


  1. I tend to forget about this too, a lot… until it hurts!! I started putting a hard pillow on my chair to push me to sit up straight. For the past year I also started going to the chiropractor… I’ll definitely try some of the exercises!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so hard to keep sitting straight – until, as you say, it hurts! I now focus on my deep neck flexors (in the front of the neck) which helps me drop my shoulders and pull up from my sitz bones. But it’s an ongoing battle!!

      Liked by 1 person

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