Welcome to Part 3 of our Piano Teacher Wellness series, in which we’re addressing the issues that cause neck and back pain from spending hours each day participating in online piano lessons and other online classes.
I interviewed my physical therapist, Stephanie Elkins, DPT, to see how we can prevent these pain and posture issues.
In this series, Stephanie is answering my questions about the causes of “Tech Neck” (the rounded shoulders and hunched back we’re all so familiar with), how to strengthen the weak muscles that contribute to back and neck problems, and how to reverse the painful issues that stem from spending so much time sitting in front of our devices with less than ideal posture.
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The rest of this article is in interview format. Please enjoy this informative and enlightening question and answer session between my sister Stephanie and I.
Melody: In our previous two articles, we discussed thoracic kyphosis with forward head posture, casually known as “tech neck”, and how chin tucks, scapular retractions, and high and low rows can strengthen the neck and upper back to reverse and even eliminate the pain that comes from the slouchy back posture we often use when we’re sitting in front of our devices.
I’ve been working hard on my scapular retractions and chin tucks (my upper back was sore the first few days!), and I’m looking forward to learning some new exercises this week to strengthen my piano posture even more!
What tips do you have for us this week, Stephanie?
Stephanie: In Part 2 of this series, we talked about slouching issues, or tech neck, as it pertains to the upper back.
This week, we’ll be addressing the anterior muscles.
Melody: What are the anterior muscles, and what can we do to help them?
Stephanie: The anterior muscles are the muscles on the front of the body, the chest and abdominal muscles. In a nutshell, we have to stretch the anterior muscles (front) so we can strengthen the posterior muscles (back).
Melody: What role do the anterior muscles play in our overall piano posture?
Stephanie: When we’re in the forward rounded position I mentioned in the previous articles, the pecs and the abdominals are compressed. This means all of those muscles on the front of the body are in their shortest position possible since we are in a slouched position.
We need to stretch the chest, front of the shoulders, and pec muscles to open the chest and lengthen the anterior muscles.
We’ll address the abs more in Part 4 of our series, but today’s exercise can also stretch the abs and get them out of the compressed position.
Melody: Sounds great! How do we stretch those anterior muscles and open the chest?
Stephanie: Doorway stretches are a wonderful way to stretch the anterior muscles and open the chest.
How to Perform Doorway Stretches
Stephanie: To perform doorway stretches correctly, bring your elbows out 90 degrees from your body, and bend your elbows roughly 90 degrees. Stand in the middle of the doorway. Put a forearm on each door frame and step forward with either foot, through the door, with your forearms and hands on the doorframe, until you feel a stretch.
Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, depending on your comfort level. Listen to your body. You want to feel a stretch, not pain.
Do at least 1 set of 3 repetitions. Repeat 2-3 times a day. After a day or two, your muscles may feel a little sore, but that is normal and expected.
A special thank you to Kacee Rose, LPTA, for demonstrating the correct performance of this exercise in the following video.
- Stephanie’s favorite ice pack for sore muscles
- Stephanie’s favorite Therabands for high and low rows
- Stephanie’s favorite yoga mat for chin tucks
- Melody’s favorite equipment for online piano lessons