As you’re reading this, you are probably sat either looking down at a laptop, looking down at a phone or hunched, shoulders forward, leaning into your desktop computer. Now, as most of you realise this and have promptly sat yourself upright, listen up (read on) about how to stop this most unfortunate cause of 80% of upper back and neck issues I see in clinic.
As we covered in the last blog, as we all spend a lot of time looking down, the big muscular pillars in the front of our neck get very tight and tired from holding our heavy heads up. Active muscle shortening (which is fairly self-explanatory, right?) causes this neck pillar to drag our heads forward. They stay tight, angry and fibrous therefore holding us in this position which makes our upper back look similar to Quasimodo’s.
In this position, the muscles in your upper back are working very had trying to pull your shoulders back and try to help take the load of your head. That’s why they always feel so tight! In this position they don’t get a break, and as we know, when muscles don’t get a break, they become fibrous, hypoxic (lack of blood flow), and painful.
As well as muscular discomfort, the spinal (intervertebral) joints don’t exactly have an easy time. When our head is being pulled forward, we have to look up (extend) to look ahead. Not only does this restrict movement in the neck but it also creates a forward curvature in the top of the neck. So, we end up having an extended neck and a flexed upper back. This isn’t a very efficient way of carrying yourself, so all the muscles in the surrounding area have to work so much harder! This is where those problems arise.
So, that’s what goes wrong, here’s how to make it right. Sit back in your chair and pin your elbows to your side – you are now a T-Rex (try and control that little roar). Those short little arms won’t be able to reach the keyboard and mouse (or phone or laptop), so bring them closer to you. In doing this you’ve immediately squared your shoulders. Your shoulder blades are flat against your back, which makes it very difficult to slouch forward and Bingo! As your shoulders square, your neck will follow – if you wanted to really give your neck a break, give yourself a double chin and push your chin back. Welcome to a position that makes you more efficient with your work-based posture and more efficient at life. Easy!