Office turtle neck syndrome

杜婉瑜 Diane
3 min readJul 29, 2021


Is changing the working environment helpful?

Changing working environment may be the first to come up your mind if you are suffering from “turtle neck syndrome” or “upper cross syndrome”.
Here are some common ideas:

  1. stack high the monitor
  2. sit lower
  3. change to a higher desk
  4. switch your laptop to a PC
Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

These changes may be useful in the beginning, due to the changes of head and neck alignment. However, you may find other problems in the long run.
There are examples such as:

  1. When you are working with a computer and paperwork at the same time, it is pointless to change the height of your monitor.
  2. Lowering the seat height and increasing the desk height causes problems like shrugging the shoulders.
  3. The laptop is more convenient in some situations.

The answer to “Is changing the office environment helpful?” is NO, you should consider changing “yourself” first.

How does “turtle neck syndrome” happen?

The first thing is to know how it is formed.

The left shows the normal alignment of the cervical; the right shows “turtle neck syndrome”. The yellow area is the upper cervical; the blue area shows the lower cervical. Figure from: Orthopedic Physical Therapy 3rd edition.

There are two factors:

  1. Forward shifting of the neck (blue area, lower cervical flexion) → the posterior area of the neck forms a bony protrusion.
  2. Posterior inclining of the chin (yellow area, upper cervical extension) → nostrils pointing to the air.

It is important that the upper and lower cervical remain proper range of motion.

The first step of correction — range of motion exercise

Range of motion exercise is beneficial in regaining proper cervical alignment and enhancing self-correction mechanism.

Upper cervical range of motion exercise

  1. Place 4 fingers on the back of the head, your thumb on your jaw line.
  2. Lift the back of your head with your four fingers to form a nodding movement.
  3. Keep the nodding movement small.

Lower cervical range of motion exercise

  1. Place 4 fingers on the lower part of the neck (close to the collar).
  2. Extend your lower neck by pressing your neck on your fingers.
  3. Avoid over-lifting the chin during this exercise.

The two exercises can be done at the same time.
By using equipment such as theraband can increase exercise level.

The second step of correction — rest between working hours

Frequent rests or stretches during work have been proven efficient to decrease muscle pain.

Studies show that the neck muscles start to fatigue after 40 minutes of typing. Five minutes of rest after 40 minutes of work can efficiently decrease fatigue level. Thus, if you do not have time to do neck correction exercise, at least take some rest from time to time.

Take home messages for today:

**Maintain cervical in a normal range of motion is more important than keeping the head and neck in a perfect posture.

**Let your muscles rest for a while during work is the best medicine to turtle neck syndrome.

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杜婉瑜 Diane

物理治療師 女性運動與姿勢矯正 physiotherapist, MS, CES 醫骼運動物理治療所 創辦人