A pain in the neck….
Neck and shoulder pain. We’ve all been there…a long day at work, at the computer, or travelling. Face is in a grimace, eyes closed. Head lolling forward and our hand tenderly squeezing our neck and shoulder area.
We all know we shouldn’t sit for too long. We all know we need to work on our sitting posture. Thats the answer right?
Well, yes… yes it is. There is a bit more you can do too.
We’ve talked about loads before (read about it here), and how if you place too much load on a structure in the body it will (quite frankly) get grumpy and irritable. We seem to almost ‘understand’ it from a sporting point of view, saying things like “my knee is sore because I have done too much running” . This makes sense because it’s too much of ‘something’. What if you could get injured from doing too much of ‘nothing’? Well, that my friends is the biggest cause of neck pain.
Poor sitting posture
If you’re at work reading this, or at home, have a look at the people around you. How are they sitting?
My bet is they are sitting in a slightly slumped position with their head FORWARD of their shoulders. Am I right?
Did you know your head is about the size (and weight) of a bowling ball? Thats pretty heavy right? If that bowling ball is sitting forward of your shoulders what’s stopping it from falling off all together? Thats right you neck/ shoulders and the associated muscles/ ligaments and other soft tissue.
The neck and shoulder muscles are in fact quite strong. Yet in general they are small – compared to say your thigh or chest muscles. That means they aren’t as strong as those other bigger muscles and they get tired easily. If we take that from the point of view of ‘loads’ they can easily become ‘over-loaded’ and therefore injured (please I encourage you again to go back and read the blog on loads).
So if you are stuck at the computer at work, or on the couch watching netflix, or texting, chances are you are sitting with a “forward head posture”. If you sit for too long the muscles and other soft tissue of your neck WILL become sore. If you keep doing it they WILL become injured and pain and dysfunction WILL occur.
What can you do?
1. Learn how to sit better.
We at Vital Core can help with this, as everyone is a little different. But put simply we want you to be sitting on your sitting bones with a gentle curve in your low back. You chest is lifted slightly and your shoulder blades whilst not squeezing are gently back and down. The back of your neck is long and your chin is gently tucked in. If you are working at a computer you MUST have a chair that supports this posture. You MUST not sit on the edge of your chair – you will get tired and sore.
2. Be aware of your posture!
Once you know ‘how’ to sit better, you need to practice doing it! It’s sounds pretty straight forward, but how often do you stop and think ‘darn it I’m sitting poorly again’? You need to do this regularly. Use a timer on your phone or the kitchen timer. Each time the alarm goes off check your posture.
3. Get up and move
Having good posture is fantastic but if you sit all day you will still get sore. You will still be overloading your posture muscles (not just in your neck). We’d encourage a five minute break every hour. Get out of your chair, walk and get a drink or go to the loo. Reach your arms up, do some circles with your hips, roll you shoulders, march on the spot. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something different for 5 minutes. This will ease the strain on your neck and other posture muscles.
4. Regular neck stretches.
This is what we at Vital Core can help specifically with as everyone is different. A generic stretch is tipping your head to the side and feeling the side neck muscles stretch. Hold it there (don’t pull on your neck please) for 20-30 seconds as long as it feels comfortable. Do the other side. Roll your shoulders backwards for 10 repetitions and then forwards for 10 repetitions. Gently tuck your chin in (give yourself a double chin) and hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times. There are some other examples in the image above. Remember they shouldn’t hurt!
5. Regular general exercise.
Often the neck will become stiff as the rest of the body becomes stiff. A regular exercise plan can combat this. You can start with some walking each day. We talked about how you can get more exercise in you day here. You can also attend one of our many many safe exercise classes here at Vital Core!
Our current exercise class timetable is out now. We are continuing to add classes in as the need arises. You’ll notice just how many Clinical Pilates classes are on Saturday mornings now! Have you booked your spot?
Whilst equipment based Pilates (clinical pilates) is fabulous, floor based (Mat) Pilates can have it’s advantages in that you can then repeat any of the exercises at home. If you just do a couple of exercises at home in front of the TV at night you WILL improve. A combination of Clinical and Mat Pilates is fabulous!
Mat Pilates classes at Vital Core are run 3 times a week, including a Thursday evening time slot.
To book into a class you do need an assessment first. Call 83310552 and speak to our receptionists and they can guide you.