In this blog I would like to share my thoughts and some ideas of how to avoid neck and shoulder pain. In my practice I deal with patients suffering from neck, upper back and shoulder problems almost every day. A significant number of adults but worryingly also a large number of children and teenagers nowadays suffer from some sort of discomfort, stiffness, tiredness or pain around neck and shoulders. Whether it is due to long hours of sitting in front of the screen at work, driving, studying, use of smartphone or tablet, the problem remains the same – bad posture. Most people do not realise how much time they spend slouching, with head and shoulders in forward position, We tend to slouch at the breakfast table, in the car, at work, and also watching TV – resting in the evening.
For most of us, slouching may seem like a relaxed position, when we may feel that our muscles are resting but In fact, this is only true in relation to some muscle groups get rest not giving it does not give our body the opportunity to rest and recover. By shifting our shoulders and head forward, away from the centre of a natural body gravity line, we disturb the healthy balance. When protracted, our head weighs much more compared to when it is in natural position. As such, our back neck muscles have to work all the time to keep our head up. At the same time, the front neck muscles as well as upper back and shoulder muscles remain in constant stretch leading to strain and weakness. Years of neglecting our spine, chest and neck position can lead to wear and tear of joints, ligaments and tendons causing pain, muscle stiffness as well as movement restrictions in joints.
The easiest way to describe a good posture is to: ‘make yourself tall’.
How to do it?
Push your chest up – not by inhaling but just slightly extending the upper back. Your head and shoulders should be now in much better position. Please make sure that your shoulders stay relaxed. It is a role of your back muscles to keep you straight and trying to push your shoulders to the back will only unnecessarily increase muscle tension in that area and bring discomfort. Ask a family member or a friend someone to look at your posture from the side: – now in corrected position your ear, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle should be in one line. Of course this will require some effort and work from your muscles but do not worry – this is what they are for. With time this “new” posture will start to feel more natural and after a few months slouching will become uncomfortable and unnatural to you.
Keeping good posture is a first very important step on the way to improve your health but there are other things you should incorporate in your daily routine to get a maximum benefit.
Try to take frequent one-two minutes breaks from sitting or still position at work. Move about, stretch your arms, legs and back if you can. Exercise at least three times a week. Short but regular strengthening sessions three or four times a week will have better effect than a long gym session once a week. Also, this short but more frequent exercise sessions will help you gradually adjust to your new plan. I understand that not everyone is capable of choosing the right exercises. Arranging a training session with a personal trainer at your local gym might give you some ideas on how to begin with muscle strengthening. Of course Pilates with our physiotherapists would be perfect!
If your pain or discomfort stops you from exercising or your symptoms increase during or after training session please talk to me or book an appointment with me at KTB for an assessment, diagnosis and tailored individual treatment program.