Neck pain is probably the number one complaint I hear from clients followed closely by back pain complaints. All too often after spending a session on the client's neck problem I see them undoing the work before they even leave the office. They throw a heavy purse or computer bag on their shoulder or they are hunched over reading their emails. These are just some of the body mechanics that keep the cycle of pain going in an endless loop. Today I'm going to discuss seven keys to using proper body mechanics that will allow your neck to feel better with or without a massage.
Problem #1 – A Flexed Head Posture
Flexion is when you bend your head forward as in reading a book or working on a cell phone or typing on a computer keyboard.The problem is that when we move our head forward it is no longer in balance with our trunk. Our chin would literally drop to our chest were it not for our posterior (back of neck) neck muscles contracting. This results in overuse and strain. Translation....a sore neck.
Whenever possible try to bring the book or phone up to eye level as you read or work. You obviously can't do this with your computer so be aware of the problem. If you are stuck at a desk for long periods put a post it note on your computer with 30/30 on it. Use it as a reminder to stand up every thirty minutes or so and stretch for 30 seconds.
Problem #2 – Head forward and Extended
This occurs when we stick our chin out and our head forward. Similar to a flexed neck posture this condition involves flexion of the lower neck (bending head forward) while extending the upper neck and head (bending head up and back). This posture puts tremendous strain and pressure on your neck extensor muscles which include the trapezius and a series of muscles that connect into the base (occipital) area of your skull. When clients come in and say “it feels like their shoulders are attached to their neck” this is one of the reasons. To fix this posture try to tuck your chin in to bend your head forward and think of pulling your neck back in more of a straight line with your trunk rather than just bend your head backwards.
Problem #3 – Holding the arms out to the side and in front of you as you tend to do when working on a computer
When you hold the arms in this manner your trapezius muscles contract to stabilize your scapula. This contraction creates many of those knots clients tend to complain about and contribute to that feeling of the shoulders feeling drawn up to your neck. We tend to hold our arms like this when the computer keyboard or mouse is too far way or we try to hold a book or magazine up to eye level when reading.
To prevent this it's better to bring the work closer to your body so your upper arms are hanging vertically down by your side.
Problem #4 – Carrying a purse or bag on your shoulder
Even if the bag is empty the natural slope of the shoulder means you have to elevate the scapula/shoulder girdle by contracting the upper trapezius and levator scapulae to prevent the bag from sliding off. This isometric contraction abuses these muscles of the neck. If the bag is heavy it's even worse because a more powerful contraction is needed and the strap cuts off circulation. It's better to wear the bag across the body or use a back pack or family pack. The best option is to use a bag on wheels.
Problem #5 Carrying a weight in our hand
Examples include carrying a computer bag, heavy purse or suitcase. Holding any weight in the hand creates a traction that pulls the shoulder girdle down toward the ground. This action must be countered by upper back muscles such as the trapezius, levator scapulae and rhomboids. It is better to use a bag on wheels a backpack or at least split the weight between two hands.
Problem #6 – Crimping a phone between the shoulder and ear
Crimping requires lateral flexion (bending sideways) of the neck and elevation of the shoulder girdle. This requires contraction of all the muscles of the neck especially the trapezius and levator scapulae. An alternative is to hold it with opposite side hand or even better use a handset.
Problem #7 – Unhealthy sleep posture
Problem #7 – Unhealthy sleep posture
The average person sleeps between six and seven hours per night. An unhealthy sleep posture can greatly add to a neck condition. If you sleep on your stomach your neck is forced into a posture of neck rotation for the entire night. If your pillow is too thick your neck is forced into excess flexion (head bent forward) all night. The best sleep posture is either on the back with a small pillow that supports the normal curve of the neck or on the side with a pillow that supports the head and neck in a neutral posture.