For most of us, our life-styles, use of smart phones, tablets & laptops, deskwork etc means that we tend to be “anterior dominant”. What I mean by that is the muscles in the front of our body tend to be stronger but also shorter, while the posterior muscles, that is your back & neck muscles become weaker & longer.
Given the current situation with a lot more people working from home, probably using a laptop on your kitchen table, coffee table or lap, there’s a likelihood of developing head, neck & shoulder pain caused by Forward Head Posture FHP). This is where our heads creep forward of vertical adding stress to the neck & upper back muscles.
The human head is surprisingly heavy (around 5kg) & for every 2.5cm or 1” of forward head posture the weight of the head on the spine can increase by an additional 4.5kg! That’s nearly doubling the weight of your head with just 1” of FHP meaning the muscles of your upper back & neck are working twice as head just to support your head! This doubles for every inch further forward so it’s hardly surprising that I see patients complaining of neck & shoulder pain.
FHP can lead to other issues such as
Muscle tension in the neck and shoulders
Discomfort in the mid back
Pain, pins & needles and numbness in the arms and hands
There’s also some evidence that it can affect breathing & digestion along with a host of other issues.
So what can you do about it?
The very 1st thing is self-awareness, you have to recognise that you have FHP so that you’re aware of the need to correct it.
You then need to look at posture & how we use our phones, tablets & laptops etc.
Working from home can lead to poor ‘ergonomics’ & you won’t have ‘occupational health’ to provide a work station assessment so here’s how you can try to set up your own:
When sitting upright at a computer workstation and looking straight ahead:
Eyes should point directly at the top third of the computer screen.
Forearms should be parallel with the floor when typing.
Elbows should be at the side.
Feet should be flat on the floor with the thighs parallel with the floor.
To achieve this you may have to be creative! You can use books to raise your laptop or cushions to raise your seat. If you have to raise your laptop then maybe invest in a remote keyboard?
Also put post-it note on your screen or set a timer on your phone so that you get up & move about/stretch for a few minutes.
Stretches you could try would be to reach out & around as if you were hugging a beach ball followed by sitting up & squeezing your shoulder blades back & down. Another is to stand against a wall, imaging you have a rod going through your head that’s parallel to the floor so that you can’t lift your chin up & down. Now move your head directly backward so that the back of your head touches the wall!
Awareness is the biggest thing here, if you’re not aware you can’t fix it.
If you do develop pain I would strongly recommend seeing someone, such as an osteopath, sooner rather than later as it’s much easier to fix & new problem than something that’s been an issue for months or even years.
Please do get in touch if you need more information
Osteopath at Sky Spa