Is your life a pain in the neck? For many the answer is yes – literally. In today’s mobile environment we are constantly hunched over carrying heavy bags or looking at screens. These factors are causing many people to suffer from back, neck and shoulder pain because of the way we live, move and work.
The reason is simple – poor posture. There are several factors that contribute to this problem including carrying very heavy bags, spending hours typing on laptops or standard keyboards, constant holding of and focusing on a cell phone and poorly-designed chairs, beds and other furniture at work and home.
But you don’t have to suffer in silence. Here are several things you can do to reduce and, in many cases, eliminate this pain.
Standard keyboards, monitors set too low for proper viewing and poorly-designed office chairs all contribute to your neck and shoulder pain. When we use a keyboard on a standard notebook or desktop, your hand position forces your shoulders inward and your back to hunch over in a “question mark” position. Do this long enough and your body will let you know the only way it can, with pain in the neck, shoulders and back areas.
This posture is called Postural Kyphosis and, although it can be painful, it is completely reversible. You can start reversing the effects of this issue by changing your environment and changing your habits.
Many companies today offer chairs, keyboards and other office cube furniture which are much more ergonomic. Ask your Human Resources specialist if your company has a program to help reduce pain from repetitive work or other factors.
You can receive better chair options, monitor stands which raise the screen higher so you don’t have to slouch to view it and even standing desks which give you the option to spend a part of your day standing at your desk instead of sitting for eight hours.
By using these tools you can maintain the proper height and distance for your monitor (at arm’s length from you, 15-30 degrees below your line of sight) and your keyboard (low enough for your arms to form a 90 degree angle to your body) and your chair (high enough for your legs to form a 90 degree angle to the floor).
It is also important to change how you work. Most people can hold their attention span for about an hour before their minds begin to lose focus. To keep your mind sharp take breaks every hour or so to give your mind a chance to relax. This is also a great opportunity to give your body a break as well. Business Insider offers several stretching exercises you can do during these breaks to relieve the stress and tension your back, neck and shoulders are under while you type away on your keyboard. As always, you should consult with your doctor before beginning any new physical regimen. Here are a couple of them.
Facing the corner of a wall, extend your right arm and put your hand against the side of the wall. Turn your body left and lean forward as you feel the stretch in your chest and shoulder. Be sure to keep your arm in line with the plane of your shoulder as you complete the stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and complete on both sides for 3 sets.
Foam rolling is another massage technique that can improve your spine mobility and correct rounded shoulders. Lay the foam roller across the spine in the middle of your back right below your shoulder blades. Your knees should be bent, feet firmly planted against the ground, and hands comfortably behind your head. Lifting your hips off the ground, roll forward so the foam roller travels down your back an inch, then drop your hips to the floor. Repeat until the foam roller is hovering a couple inches below your neck, then slowly roll back down following the same pattern. If you feel any areas of stiffness, stay roll back and forth on top of the area for 10-15 seconds.
Complete this exercise for 3 sets going up, down, and up again. You may feel some pain and discomfort the first few times you complete this exercise, but over time, your upper back mobility will improve.
The Close Grip Row can be completed seated using a cable machine, or standing using a resistance band.
Wrap the resistance band around a stable object at chest level and walk back a few feet until you feel moderate tension on the band. Your arms should be extended with a slight bend in your knees and feet placed shoulder width apart. Keeping your head up, shoulders back, chest out, back straight, and abs tight, slowly pull the bands toward the sides of your torso while squeezing your shoulder blades. Slowly resist the band until your arms are fully extended. Complete 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
We seem to spend our days staring at screens both at work and at home and the biggest culprit is our cell phone. We all do the same thing: head down, shoulders rounded, one hand or the other at mid torso holding the phone.
You may not be able to break this habit, but you can reduce the pain from it. Our friends at WebMD have a couple of suggestions:
A better pillow and mattress will help relieve stress caused by poor neck support or mattress springs digging into muscles as we sleep. Also, sleeping on your back or sides is better than on your stomach so your tendons and ligaments can relax.
Begin a good exercise regimen to strengthen your core and back muscles. Consult with your doctor to see what exercises will help with this.
Finally, take the time to be aware of how your sitting, standing and lying down. Always try to keep your shoulders directly over your hips as you sit, stand and walk. Stand against a wall with your heels touching it and press your shoulders and head back so they are all touching that wall simultaneously. This will help you realign your back and neck and also show you how much you are hunching over normally.
Life can be a pain, but there is a lot you can do to relieve it by simple fixes to your environment and your habits. With some better tools, some simple exercises and a little attention paid to how you sit, stand and walk, you can be on your way to and healthier and less painful life.
Do you have some great ideas on how to relieve neck and back pain? Leave a comment and share them with our readers!