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, Daily Exercises, Gymn Dangers, Hips, Improving Movement, Injuries, Physio's Personal Tips, Physiotherapy, Pilates, Stability

How stable is your core?? Here’s how to check!

personaltrainerOften, people spend hours doing “core training” in the gym such as sit-ups, planks and the like only to find that they still experience symptoms of instability such as low back pain during training or, they get injured regularly doing exercise. The problem? This kind of “core training” addresses the strength of your abdominal and oblique muscles which are responsible for providing movement but does not train the deeper, stabilising muscles that are responsible for maintaining good alignment of the spine.

Here is a little exercise to introduce the feeling and the essence of stability in you torso. The true “core”:

1. Lie on your back, knees up, feet flat on the ground.

2. Breath, and feel how your ribs move and the shape of your spine changes.

3. Place your index fingers on the bones at the top of your pelvis at the front.

4. Feel what happens when you lift one foot from the floor REALLY SLOWLY!!! No jumping it up!!!

5. Try again and try to not allow any movement in your pelvis or lumbar spine.

Did you hold your breath? Did your pelvis roll toward the side you lifted? Did your back arch away from the floor? Did you get a “ping” of back  pain?

If YES was an answer to any of these questions you have room for improvement in you core stabilisation.

Practicing this exercise is actually a great way to begin the reactivation of your deeper, stabilising muscles.  Breathing as you move and load the spine is essential to prevent rigidity. Our bodies are designed to be fluid and coordinated when moving and breath holding can stifle this and cause us to become to stiff when moving! If you don’t breath while you do anything you won’t do it for very long!!

Mullumbimby-Pilates

For detailed explanation of core stability refer to our previous blog “What is core stability?”. You can find it here: https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2014/03/28/what-is-core-stability/.

Also, watch this video of one of physiotherapists, Angus, walking through the above exercise and explaining how to activate your core!

Gluteal, Hips, Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stability

Happy Hips

Whether you are a walker, a runner, footballer or even a belly-dancer, everyone needs good hip stability to be able to perform their sport (or their art) with optimum control.

Belly Dancers Hips

Poor stability around the hip joint can lead to problems such as trochanteric bursitis, lower back pain, sciatic pain and groin injuries. If you have one of these problems it is possible that you have weakness and poor control of the deep muscles of your hip joint.

Hip stability is achieved by having not only strength of the big gluteal muscles that make up the bulk of your buttocks but also good timing of activation and control of the deeper muscles of the hip joint. These deep muscles are responsible for stabilising the hip joint during movement to allow the larger gluteal muscles to move your hip with better joint alignment.

Hips Start

Knees bent, pelvis tilted

To test your deep hip stability simply follow these steps:

1) Stand in front of a mirror with your knees slightly bent (around 30 degrees) and your pelvis tilted forwards.

Now place your hands on your hips to feel the muscles just behind your hip with your thumbs and your abdomen with fingertips.

Hip exercise

Hips always level

2) Gently transfer your weight to one side, aiming to keep your knee, hip and shoulder aligned on the side that you are leaning toward e.g. your hips stay level with the ground.

Hold for a few seconds then transfer your weight to the other foot, again keeping your hips level.

If you have good stability you should be able to do this and maintain alignment of your hips, knees and shoulders, as shown in the animated image on the left, and you will feel the muscles activate strongly.

If you have poor stability you will find it hard to keep your balance and you may see your hips drop or your shoulders sway too far out to the side, as shown below.

Happy Hips Wrong

Left – hips crooked, Centre starting position. Right – hips crooked

Practicing this simple movement daily can help to improve the stability of your hip joint.

Keep it up! Remember; stable hips are happy hips!

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

Feet, Physiotherapy, Stability

The foot – an amazing piece of machinery !

Happy feetWe stand, run, jump, hop & dance, all on our feet and rarely give them any thought until we feel pain or feel unsteady!

Our feet are the basis of our posture and give us most of the feedback we need to balance!

Bones of the footSo as upright animals we rely totally upon our feet, yet there they are, down there, out of sight, out of mind while many, many small muscles do their stabilising jobs.

But have you ever thought what’s involved in simply standing on your feet?

Here’s a simple exercise to highlight just one of the stabilising muscles.  Give this a try.

Stand with feet hip width apart.

Two feetTry to stretch you toes out straight and lean slightly forward so the tips of your toes have a small amount of weight on them but you haven’t lifted the heel.

Can you feel the muscles in the sole working? These are the muscles designed to support our arches and I bet this is the first time you’ve been aware of them !

But then our world is mostly flat and safe and we have no need to be in a position of preparation for change and as a result our feet get really lazy.

I like to think of our feet having a TRIPOD OF STABILITY.

  • The tip of the big toe
  • The base of the little toe and
  • The heel

Try standing with weight evenly distributed between these three points and you will unwittingly turn on a whole range of muscles in your foot, thigh, buttock and back.

Bare feet in grassStrong feet – the basis of good posture – a basis of good health.

Post by Catherine Stephens B. App Sc (Physio) MAPA.

Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stretching

4 Tips for Effective Calf Stretching

Stretching the calf muscleImportant after any extended walking, running, golf or weight bearing sport!

1)    Ensure the foot is directly in line with the leg. Toes not turned out as is often the case.

2)    To get an effective stretch you need more pressure than just stepping backwards so press into a wall or bench with hands or forearms.

3)    Roll the heel backwards so the very back of the heel is on the ground and lift the toes just a little.

4)    Straighten the knee completely feeling tightness in the muscles above the knee, lifting the knee cap.

Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds to get effective lengthening through the entire length of the calf muscles.

Note : in the case of Achilles tendonitis this is not suggested as it tends to aggravate the tendon.

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