It doesn’t take a phd in anatomy to come to the conclusion that the human body was not designed to be parked in front of a computer for the majority of our waking hours. That being said, I’m pretty confident that computers are not going any were anytime soon.
As a chiropractor there is not a day that goes by that I don’t here the words “I carry my stress right her,” as the patient rubs their shoulders. Upon examination I typically notice tight and tender muscles throughout the back of the neck and shortened front muscles including neck and chest muscles. There are also often joint dysfunctions in the upper back and neck. These conditions can be treated with chiropractic care, but if we don’t stop what is causing these problems, the symptoms will come right back.
I recently came across this video that gives some simple tips that might help relieve some of that stress in your shoulders and elsewhere.
For more information about how we treat neck pain, check out our Neck Pain Page. Working too long on a computer can also lead to headaches, if you are experiencing headache check out our Headaches Page.
As we thought through topics that would be most helpful to share with our patients, one of the first that we identified was sitting at your desk/ computer without getting neck or upper back pain. Sounds simple enough, right? I’m guessing, though, that a good number of you (and your coworkers, family, and friends) experience pain caused by this very reason.
Maintaining correct posture is a great habit to develop as it contributes to your health, general well-being and quality of life. Think of the bony anatomy of a healthy body and you should generally notice alignment and symmetry. The (front/ back) curvature of a healthy spine should remain close to neutral through most of your day whether you are sitting, standing, working, playing, or even sleeping.
When standing in good posture, your ear, shoulder, hip, and heel should remain in the same plum line. When you sitting or even squat or bend to get something off the floor, your feet will come out of that line, but the ear, shoulder, and hip should remain in the same line.
In the video below, Katie deomonstrates the proper sitting posture:
Our bodies were not created to sit in one static position for long periods of time, but for the majority of our culture, this is hard to avoid. Our bodies were created to be regularly active so when we force ourselves to sit stagnant for hours on end, certain parts of your body will be placed in great stress. Whether it is your job or lifestyle that calls you to be in this position, it is easy to sit lazy and slump into a forward bent. When we slip out of good posture and into one big “C-shape” curve from head to tail-bone, the muscles along the length of the spine beg you to sit up right… and your body communicates to you through pain.
As you begin feeling that pain, raise your chin up to the sky, open your chest, and stretch extending back. Refrain from tucking your chin and flexing forward as that can easily exacerbate the strain.
If your job or lifestyle does call you to sit for many hours a day, take a few seconds every half hour or hour to do a few simple extension exercises. When you’re done with your day of sitting, choose to take a quick walk to get your body moving and blood flowing. And while you are sitting, here are some key tips to think of so reduce pain:
Use a seat that supports your back (low back especially) and creates just over a 90 degree angle between your trunk and your thighs.
Allow the top of the monitor to be at or slightly below eye level
If your screen creates a glare, you may find yourself straining to see what is on the computer and a screen cover would be a good investment.
Place your monitor a little more than an arms distance in front of you.
Allow feet to rest flat on the floor. If your legs are not long enough for that, create a footrest out of some books or a box.
If typing from a document, place it on a stand at eye height near the computer screen.
Only use a wrist-rest while resting, not typing, to reduce risk of impinging the nerves and tendons in your wrist. Maintain straight wrists in relation to forearms.
Keep shoulders relaxed down and elbows at an appropriate angle to keep your wrists straight.
Keep body, monitor, and keyboard in the same plane to decrease rotation.
Avoid propping up your keyboard on its retractable feet. Although it’s easier to see the keys, it forces you to strain your wrist.
Use a stable work station that won’t bounce or move around.
Take frequent breaks throughout your day!!.
In addition to the postural keys, we recommend a few items that can aid in decreasing pain and increasing healthy posture. The first is very simple. I’ve been giving each of our new patients a few stickers to take with them (if you need some, just ask) so that they can be put in strategic places… places that you spend a good amount of time in or places that you recognize being in when your pain presents. When you see the sticker, it should act as a reminder to sit up tweak some of those postural points, to drink more water, to bring your ears in line with your shoulders, or to do anything else that you are having trouble remembering to do.
One product we sell here at Compass that works to retrain the shoulder muscles to pull back into form. The Str8nUp is a spandex band in the infinity shape that hugs your shoulders wraps around your upper back. It is a rigid brace but rather it gently reminds the shoulders where they should stay. For more information you check out the video.
A third item that can help with good posture is the disc-o-sit. This is a air-filled disc that when sat on creates the feeling of sitting on an exercise ball. On it, you will initiate your core and hip muscles more than if on a static chair. Going further than that, you can do intentional exercises on it throughout your day. Here is my video showing ways to use the disc-o-sit.
Finally, we have a product called the McKenzie Roll. This pillow-like roll comes with a strap that keeps the roll on whatever chair you are using. Seeing that it is so light and small, it can easily be moved from your car to home to the office! When used correctly, the McKenzie Roll pushes forward on the low spine and causes you to sit with the lumbar spine neutral.
I know it can be overwhelming to make all these changes at once, so this month, identify a few areas that need to be modified and begin to make healthy changes. If you become confused or overwhelmed, feel free to email our staff with questions. We would love to help.
It might not surprise you to hear that we see a lot of low back pain in our office, what might surprise you is that a vitamin deficiency might be contributing to the lower back pain that many people experience. A recent study out of Canada looked at patients who had chronic back pain and found that there was a significant rate of vitamin D depletion in these patients. When given Vitamin D supplementation patient showed improvement in reported pain levels.
Who is deficient is Vitamin D?
It is estimated that 60% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. Why is this? Vitamin D is obtained from two sources, the sun and food. Because we are spending more and more time indoors, people are not getting exposed to the sun and therefore not getting vitamin D. As far as food sources go, fish is one of the best sources of vitamin D and most Americans don’t consume fish on a regular basis.
Are you deficient?
Most people don’t know if they are vitamin D deficient. You can obtain a blood test that will test your levels of vitamin D. You can ask your doctor about this test next time you see them or your next physical.
What can you do?
If you suffer from chronic lower back pain you might considering increasing your vitamin D intake. As we get closer to the winter it is going to be harder to get outside and more of our bodies will be covered preventing sun exposure. Vitamin D can easily be obtain in food and supplement form. For a list of foods with the highest levels of vitamin D click Vitamin D foods. If you don’t find yourself eating many of the foods on the vitamin D list you can get vitamin D through supplementation. Vitamin D3 has been found to be the most beneficial. The Vitamin D3 that I recommend is from Metagenics and you can see it by clicking Metagenics vitamin D3.
Most of the studies done on vitamin and pain have looked at lower back pain, but it would stand to reason that if you have other pains such as neck, upper back and shoulder pain that vitamin D might also help. There are numerous benefits from getting a healthy dose of vitamin D and very few risks if taken appropriately.
For a lot of you, you come in for your adjustment, and afterwards, I ask you to do a few minutes of balance work. Whether its performing exercises while balancing on the exercise ball, Bosu, balance disk, or even just standing on one of the balance boards, I’m sure you’ve wondered why. Rest assured… there is method to our madness.
Because life is lived, at times, in unstable positions (such as walking on icy surfaces in the winter, running on uneven ground, or dodging toys and other obstacles as you chase your kiddos around the house),working on balance boards helps you safely and quickly keep up with the demands of life. Working on balance boards improves the strength of the small muscles of the foot and lower leg, improves reaction time, reduce the incidence of injury, increases your body’s awareness of where it is at in space, improves movement mechanics, and helps the body to work together as a whole!
One of the main reasons that we want to do balance work with our patients is to increase your proprioception (your body’s awareness of where it is at in space… ie knowing where your foot or arm is at without having to look down at it). After a spinal adjustment, when the body is in its corrected alignment, working on a balance board creates continuous neural stimulus that is perceived as information in the brain. It reinforces that correct alignment and encourages the body to remain in that position (which in turn would lead to more spread out adjustments).
Conclusive research has also been done with balance boards. In one study, it was found that simple balance exercises, as part of early treatment for injuries such as ankle sprains, increases the strength and stability of the joint and therefore decreases the chance for residual symptoms and sprains. Additional research has shown that exercising on these unstable surfaces significantly strengthens muscles when tested against stable equipment. For instance, in one particular study, untrained men approximately doubled abdominal muscle activity when a crunch was executed on an exercise ball versus a static bench.
So if you want a stronger and quicker body whose muscles all work together in unison, try doing exercises on unstable surfaces. Remember, though, to be safe and begin easy, with no weight, and progressively get more difficult, as exercises on these surfaces can be deceivingly difficult!
Texting may limit your time on the phone, but you might be spending more time in your chiropractor’s office according to a new study out of Temple University. This study showed an increase in neck and shoulder pain in people who choose to texting over talking on the phone.
One of the questions asked in this study is “why neck and shoulder pain and not arm and wrist pain?” Hand and wrist pain would seem like the obvious symptoms experienced by texters, but that was not the case and the answer is simple physics. If you hold something out in front of you, it is much heavier than if you hold it close to you. Imagine how tired your arms would get by holding a bowling ball out in front of you all day; this is what your neck does when you look down to text.
The head weighs as much as a bowling ball and relies on the muscles of the neck and shoulders to keep it upright. When the neck is in front of the body and looking down it puts more stress on these muscles creating muscle stress and pain. Every inch of forward head deviation produces 20 extra pounds of weight on the muscles of the neck and shoulders. If you don’t believe me, carry around a bowling ball for the entire day and see how your arm feels at the end. To read the origianl article, visit WebMD
. For information about how we treat neck pain in our office, visit our neck pain page.
This patient came to see me recently complaining of chronic neck pain that had recently gotten to the point that she was unable to sleep and do her normal daily activities. After just a few treatments she started to notice improvement. Currently she is back doing many of the activities that she thought she would have to decrease for the majority of her life.