Lifestyle, Physio's Personal Tips, Physiotherapy, Stability, Work

Avoiding a Pain in the Neck

The link between neck pain and technology use.

laptop-postureNeck pain is becoming more prevalent in recent times and much of it is linked to the poor postures we adopt when using technology.

On average, we spend 15 hours a week in front of a screen (almost 1 month of the year), and up to 50 hours a week if it is required for work. When using technology, our eyes need to be in an optimal position to focus on the screen. For most of us, it is easiest to poke our chin out to get closer to the screen.

For each inch that your head sits forward of its normal position, the head adds 4.5kg of force onto the small and fragile structures within your neck.  All of this added pressure can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, arm pain and headaches from the muscles in your neck having to work harder and the added pressure placed on the discs, nerves and vertebrae.

ForwardHdEv

If you are someone who spends a lot of your hours in front of the screen, behind the wheel or on the couch, there are some strategies that you can adopt to ease the pressure on your poor neck!

Activation of your Deep Neck Flexors

Your deep neck flexors are muscles in front of the spine responsible for neck stability (similar to the role of the deep abdominals in your lumbar spine) and supporting the head directly over the spine.  When your neck is over your spine, the pressure on other parts of your neck and body will be reduced.

Activating them can be difficult if you are doing so for the first time, so follow these simple steps:

Step 1 – Lie down on your back with a pillow underneath your head and neck, legs bent up and muscles relaxed.

Feeling Neck FlexorsStep 2 – Tuck your chin in so it feels as though it is lightly blocking your windpipe and push the back of your skull into the pillow.  Do NOT activate the muscles at the front of your neck.  Place your fingers on these muscles if necessary to stop them from activating.

Step 3 – Hold this position for 5 seconds before relaxing.  Repeat 10 times before having a rest, then complete 1-4 more sets of 10 until fatigued.

Chin Retraction

Chin Retraction – make a double chin, hold for 5 secs, then relax

Constant awareness of your neck position

When in the car, use the head rest and tuck your chin in.  When at your desk or when using technology, make sure you are not protruding your chin to see the screen.  And, when you are sitting on the couch make sure your head is in a good position and is supported appropriately.

Set up your environment correctly

Move the items in your environment (screen, mouse, keyboard, chair) so that you can maintain a good posture and still work efficiently.   Laptops and tablets force poor posture as looking down at the screen and typing so close prevents good posture. Purchasing a wireless keyboard to use with your tablet to separate hands and screen, increase the font size on your smartphone, correct the angle of your screen on your laptop and position pillows properly when sitting on the couch to provide low back support..

Ergonomics1

Take regular breaks

Increasing the amount of time that the structures in your neck are under pressure will increase the likelihood of developing pain.  Scheduling regular breaks will allow your neck to have a rest and to relieve the strain.

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If you do suffer from neck pain due to poor posture, these strategies will help you.  Poor posture, however, is not the only cause of neck pain and if pain persists we do recommend consulting your physiotherapist for a full assessment.

Post by Mitchell Sandvoss (B. Physiotherapy)

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abdominals, back, Core stability, Feet, Gymn Dangers, Physiotherapy, Pilates, Shoulder

What is Core Stability?

Power and Strength are useless without Stability and Control

muscles

Big flashy muscles might be attractive but as any physio will tell you, they are next to useless without core stability.

Thankfully the health and fitness industry has now started to embrace the need for core stability, but still few people really understand the concept and what it means.

Essentially our bodies have hundreds of different muscles that all perform important tasks and the very conspicuous Abs, Glutes, Pecs, Delts and Biceps (amongst others) are there to provide strength but they are supported by a plethora of smaller, less conspicuous muscles that provide stability.

shock absorbersThese are generically referred to as the ‘Core Muscles’ and the best comparison we can think of is with automotive suspension systems.

If the ‘Strength’ muscles are the springs then the ‘Core’ muscles would be the shock absorbers.  They are usually less conspicuous, sometimes even hidden within the springs but without them your car would fall apart in no time.

The same goes for humans.  Good strength muscles alone won’t keep you running smoothly. Without good core stability you’ll be in for lube and servicing (physio) all too often and eventually you’ll be off to the scrap yard before your time!

inner_core_musclesWhen it comes to spinal stability, the most important muscles are the multifidus, pelvic floor and transversus abdominis. As shown in the image to the right, these muscles form a supportive cylinder around the spine. The transversus abdominis is like a corset around your abdomen and it sits deep underneath all the “six-pack” muscles.  It attaches the lower ribs, diaphragm and lumbar spine to the pelvis.

This ‘core’ stabilises the spine and allows the load of movement to be evenly distributed between all the intricate joints of the spine. Just like a car suspension system, it reduces the shock through the joints and thus reduces wear and tear which would, over time, lead to conditions such as arthritis or bulging discs.

personaltrainerDoing exercises like sit ups is useful to strengthen the big “six-pack” muscles, but doing this exercise without good core stability will lead to excessive load through the joints of the spine and can lead to injury of the spine.

So in that respect it is important to activate and strengthen the core before you start on a regime of strength building.

 

Muscles of the posterior shoulderAnother example is the shoulder. The “delts”, “lats”, “pecs” and “biceps” look fabulous but they are not the stabilisers of the shoulder.

Over training of these without attention to the deeper, core stabilisers of the shoulder can result in injury as a result of an increased load being put through the system without the appropriate “suspension”, so to speak.

See our blog on ‘Shoulder Stability’ for a series of simple exercises to build core shoulder stability.

Each area of the body  has a “core” component.

Feet have intrinsic muscles that operate in balancing.

Ankles rely on hip and foot stabilisers for control.

Knees similarly need good hips and feet to be protected.

and even Necks have a deep system of muscles that control movement.

In essence, the core muscles play a crucial a role in overall well being and strength. Without the stability and control provided by the deeper core muscles, the power and strength gained from training is useless!!

Stay tuned as our series of CORE STABILITY blogs will introduce the specifics of core training for different parts of the body and the common areas of overloading we see in fitness regimes!

Post by Catherine Stephens (B.App.Sc Physio) and Angus Tadman (B.App.Sc Physio Hons I)

Daily Exercises, Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stretching

Avoid the Hump – the stiff thoracic spine

Do you spend hours bent over a workstation? Does your job involve repetitive bending and heavy lifting? Do you, like so many of us in recent years, use a tablet, smart phone or laptop computer for hours every day?

Thoracic HumpIf you answered yes to any of the above then it is very likely that you will have developed stiffness in your upper back.  This ‘thoracic region’ is the largest part of our spine.  It starts at the base of your neck and ends just above the lower back.

As a result of daily habits, like those described above, and poor posture, the thoracic spine is more likely to become stiff.   This may not present as a major problem initially but it can have flow-on effects to the lower back, neck and shoulders.

The most immediate obvious effect of thoracic stiffness is in an increase in the natural curvature of your upper back and causes you to stand with “rounded shoulders”. This poor posture that we so often adopt as a result of laziness of our muscles eventually becomes permanent as the joints lose their ability to move back into a more upright position!

There are two wonderfully effective stretches that can help to increase thoracic spine mobility:

1)    The open book stretch: Lay on your side as shown. Breathe in as you move your top arm across your body and turn your head and shoulders with it, keeping your knee firmly placed on the floor. Breathe out as you hold the stretch for around ten to fifteen seconds, then return to the start and repeat 10 times.

Thoracic Open Book stretch

2)    Extension over ball: Place a small inflatable ball on the floor – an exercise ball is best as it is quite squishy but a soft soccer ball will also do. Lay over the ball positioned between your shoulder blades. Make sure your head is supported on a pillow or a rolled up towel and your legs are bent. Stretch for 2 minutes with your arms overhead, breathing fully and relaxing into the stretch.

Lay over ball

Post by Angus Tadman B. App. Sc (Phty) Hons Class I

Work

Computer use and Neck pain.

When we sit for extended periods at a computer neck pain and headaches are common. These symptoms are worsened with the use of a lap top due to the increased hunching over that is caused by the proximity of the screen to the keypad.

Being aware of posture while sitting at the  computer is  the best prevention of the strain on the neck. Sitting with the lower back supported with a cushion etc. etc.

Ideal typing poistion

How to avoid pain from using a PC