Take a look at this photo. Many people with shoulder and neck pain have a difficult time resting comfortably in this position. I have seen countless patients over the years who cannot tolerate their head in a neutral position while maintaining their hands resting on the floor as shown.
Sustained forward posture from sitting in an office chair all day can cause tightening of the anterior portions of the chest, shoulder and neck. The posterior muscles of the upper back find themselves on the losing end of a game of postural “tug of war” and are typically weak.
The great thing about this simple test is that it is also an exercise that can be used to help reverse the effect that prolonged sitting has on the body.
This exercise is also easily modified. If the neck cannot sustain this position, place the smallest pillow or towel possible behind the head. If the backs of the hands cannot comfortably lie on the floor, place towels under the hands so that they are slightly raised.
Once you are modified enough to lie comfortably, work on gently recruiting your back muscles by squeezing your shoulder blades together and pressing your hands downwards into the floor. Maintain this hold for ten seconds and build up to ten repetitions. It is also a good idea to keep your knees bent with the bottoms of both feet resting on the floor (not shown in the photo). A gentle abdominal contraction while flattening the lower back into the floor can be added as well in order to recruit core muscles.
This exercise can easily be done on the office floor! If anyone asks what you are doing, reply that it is “medically necessary”.