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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I take care of a sore back/neck at home?

    Often times from sitting for prolongued periods of time, I experience a stiff neck/upper back. Because I am sure it's from sitting, I do not feel the need to see a chiropractor. What can I do at home to relieve some of the tension I am experiencing?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2


    Neil Synnott

    Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist

    I am qualified as a PHYSIOTHERAPIST and ACCREDITED EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST.I primarily use the McKENZIE METHOD for assessment and management of musculoskeletal pain disorders. The McKENZIE … View Profile


    My name is Neil. I practice as a physiotherapist and accredited exercise physiologist.

    I like the phrasing of your question!! Often people experience low, middle or upper back and neck pain due to being in the one position for a prolonged period. This can develop in as short as 30 minutes!

    Often sitting is more aggravating than standing. Our bodies were built for a standing posture and are thus are more suited to withstand these postures for a prolonged period. Also, our bodies were built to move, not to be still in the one spot for an extended period of time. So being a little active during the day is a great way to manage spinal pains!

    A few strategies to manage your upper back and neck are as follows:

    1. Use a lumbar support when sitting - a cylindrical foam pillow placed at the level of where a belt would sit helps to support an improved posture of the spine - available from most physiotherapy practices.

    2. Take a break from sitting every 30-60 minutes - simply standing up and taking a short stroll - 1 minute - can be enough to reduce the stress on your neck and upper back.

    3. Desk set-up - position and height of computer monitor and keyboard, position of phone, position of documents on the desk - everything should be within easy reach so that you dont need to strain  to access them.

    4. Back and neck stretches

    • Low back - stand tall, place your hands in the small of the back, lean back gently, over a few repetitions lean back as far as you and your balance allows. If pain worsens you need a full assessment from an appropriatly trained physiotherapist.
    • Neck - sit tall in your chair, gently pull your head back on your neck/shoulders, over a few repetitions take your head back as far as possible - this movement resembles a chicken/turkey head movement.
    An excellent reference for self-management of neck and back pain is the 'Treat Your Own Neck' and 'Treat Your Own Back' book by Robin McKenzie.

    Any questions, I am happy to assist.

    Regards, Neil

  • Sandra McFaul


    Do you suffer from chronic lower back pain or neck pain? Based in SYDNEY, Sandra is 1 of ONLY 15 Physiotherapists in Australia with ADVANCED … View Profile

    Neil has given great advice above.

    Sitting the wrong way is a major cause of pain.  Often it is a little niggle and then it develops slowly into something more serious or it just may hit you out of the blue and be a lot worse. 

    Awareness of sitting posture is the key.

    Using a McKenzie lumbar roll in the small of your back can help keep everything in line.  Don't sit with your chin or upper back in a forward position.  Get up and stretch every hour or so.  Put an alarm on your phone to remind you.

    If this doesn't help, then seek the advice of a trained McMcKenzie Method Physiotherapist.  Often it just takes a session or two if your problem is a minor one.

  • 1


    James Schomburgk


    As well as being a physio I have completed my Masters In Manipulative Physiotherapy in the 90's. My interests are in diagnosing and managing low … View Profile

    Clincal reseach is clear- the best and simplest treatment is to keep moving- moving helps heal the spine. Do not give in to bed rest for minor back and neck aches- this leads to a poor prognosis, especially for bed rest > 2 days.
    Gentle pain-relief and heat therapy also are well supported in research.

  • Dr Ryan Hislop


    Ryan Hislop is the Clinical Director at the Mudgee Chiropractic Health and Wellness Centre. As an experienced and evidence-based diagnostician, Ryan works largely by medical … View Profile

    There is some fantastic advice in the previous posts and as James Schomburgk stated, movement is the best treatment. It's once those self help strategies that Neil Synnott and Sandra McFaul have outlined no longer provide relief, that you may require professional care.

    In May 2012, the Chiropractors Association of Australia utilised Spinal Health Week to educate Australians on how to sit correctly and further self help measures. I would encourage you to visit for further information.

  • 1


    Ali treats people from all walks of life and a variety of complaints. His interests lie in treating and rehabilitating sports injuries, treating headaches and … View Profile

    Great advice above!

    I would also like to add that any prolonged posture is a bad posture and as James has mentioned above, the key is to keep moving or move often. Our bodies are not made to sit, especially for prolonged periods. The common formula I find is beneficial with those that work behind a desk is stretch the chest and hip flexors while strengthening the upper back. Furthermore, strengthening the buttock muscles is also beneifical as they can become weak with prolonged sitting and eventual result in low back pain. 

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