Technology and Upper and Lower Back Pain
The advancements of the industrial and technology revolutions have created for our society the opportunity to sit at computers for work. Technology is an amazing thing which allows us to accomplish more and speak to individuals around the world in real time. However, our bodies were designed to stand and move which is why sitting may cause issues if people do not take the necessary steps to negate or help with compensation patterns from being in a flexed position all the time.
Why do we have more neck and back issues today than our grandparents? I believe one of the answers may be that we have become sedentary. Our grandparents were mainly labor and agricultural which required them to be mobile, standing and moving. The advancements of the industrial and technology revolutions have created for our society the opportunity to sit at work at our computers.
Technology is an amazing thing which allows us to accomplish more and speak to individuals around the world in real time. However, our bodies were designed to stand and move which is why sitting may cause issues if people do not take the necessary steps to negate or help with compensation patterns from being in a flexed position all the time.
If you take a look around at our flexed society, not necessarily meaning strong, but our head, shoulders, back and hips are in almost constant flexion. Some examples of this is from the moment we wake up in the morning and if we eat breakfast we sit at the table, then sit on our commute, sit at our office, commute home, dinner, recliner and then to top it all off people may sleep on their side in a curled position. The problem is not just the constant flexed position but that we never are moving in the opposite direction to open up the body and allow for stretching of the front and strengthening of the posterior, or back muscle of the body like gluteal, hamstring and back. If you want to see a great example of once something starts in motion it will continue to go further down due to gravity you can look no further than to the third generation. Most have lost the ability to look up or even rotate their head to the left and right.
Standing and back pain
Have you ever wondered why people have sharp pains or tension when standing after sitting for long periods? One reason is that when we go to stand, we can feel pain or tension in the back because we are so used to engaging our front that we use our front body to stand and walk instead of our back line. Example, getting up from a chair, when someone rockets or catapults forward to get up instead of just being able to stand without our chest moving forward.
When we sit for long periods in the day, we are strengthening that position. We don’t just fall over when we sit, which means we are having to hold our body in tension. This holding develops strength in certain parts of our muscle that later creates imbalances like anterior pelvic tilt when we stand. A great example I often use is, when a client does a bicep curl. A great way to strengthen is to do a full contraction and use the full range of motion of the bicep. If you saw someone only going 25-50% there would only be a partial strengthening of the lower fibers of the muscle. This is what we do all day when we sit. We strengthen part of the muscle fibers. Like the bicep curl the person could eventually have elbow pain. Our back and necks feel the impact because there is a constant shortening created when the anterior, or front muscles become strong or shortened.
Does anyone ever remember their grandparents telling us to sit up straight or to stop slouching? I know that my grandmother used to tell me this all the time. Mostly this was done because it was proper manners and etiquette. When our bodies are in alignment, we look healthier and stronger and chances are we can move easier as well. However, I have come to realize how smart my grandmother was when it came to posture and how this helped with tension in the body.
If you could take a moment and take three deep breathes. You can notice how the ribs can expand three dimensionally. The front opens, the sides expand and the back fills up. If you were to bend down and touch your toes and try to do the same, you would notice that you have less of a full breath. This is what happens as well when our body is forward. We never are really taking full breathes and when we have less oxygen to the body things like fatigue, dizziness and other health issues may present in the future.
I know from firsthand experience when I had a herniated disc, I was unable to straighten up. After walking a distance of a few hundred yards I felt winded and had to take breaks so that I wouldn’t pass out.
I want to give you a tip.
BRING YOUR TECHNOLOGY TO YOU, NOT YOU TO YOUR TECHNOLOGY.
This tip can be applied when we look at our phones, iPads, computers and tv.
I had a client that came in with neck pain on his left side. After talking with him for a while I asked about his computer monitor. He told me that he had two screens. I asked which screen he looked at the most. He told me that it was the one on his left and that it was raised. Imagine being in this fixed position, LOOKING LEFT AND UP for most of the day. This position influenced his neck because after he brought the screen down and in front of him the pain went away.
Did you know that the human head ways about 10 to 11 pounds and that every 5 degrees that our head shifts forward the brain thinks it weighs 10 pounds more? Imagine the amount of energy that you are having to use to hold your head up because it is in a forward position all day. Would you think by simply fixing our head position during the day that we could have more energy and less tension? Absoulutley!
I want to teach you three simple techniques that can help alleviate common neck and upper back tension.
I want everyone to place the finger on their chest. Throughout the day just think about chest up. This naturally brings our shoulders back and head into a better position over our spine.
Shoulders back: this is where we bring our shoulder blades into our spine. You can hold this for 3-5 seconds for about 10 repetitions.
Remember, in order to have the most benefit you will need to do the first two techniques. When we do this exercise, I want to note that our chin and shoulder position are important. The chin should not be looking up, down, left or right. Practicing in front of a mirror is most beneficial until you can feel your head position in the right place. Your shoulders should be back and your chin in a neutral position. Then we simply push our head back, with your neck muscles. Be sure to preform 10 reps with 3-5 second holds several times a day. These three simple techniques can help to combat our constant forward position as well as strengthening the surrounding muscles to help keep us in better alignment.
Don’t forget to take breaks if you sit at work. Set a timer if needed and keep on moving.
Your body will thank you.
Shawn Coopwood, L.M.T.
A HEALTHY MIDSOUTH CATALYST