Relieve Neck And Shoulder Pain From Working Remotely
Remote work became the new normal in early 2020, pushing professionals out of their usual work space and forced to find a productive spot in their own home.
Surprisingly, one of the largest contributors to soft tissue damage is inactivity, including working at a computer station. Improper posture and less than optimal workspace setups also became too common, leaving the average remote worker uncomfortable at best, and possibly with serious muscle pain over time.
Even the best ergonomics are never perfect for our bodies. We were designed to move, not hold one position for extended periods of time.
Undoing weeks of working from the couch, kitchen table or home desk setup requires time and patience for your own body. A chiropractor can assess and treat the spine and surrounding muscles to correct poor posture, but getting into a regular stretching routine is necessary to reinforce better posture and alignment for sustainable healing and easier range of motion.
Why Your Neck and Shoulders are Tight
Poor ergonomics can cause various muscles to become hypertonic and lead to muscle strain and tension.
Laptops are a common cause of poor posture, because screens are low and right next to the keyboard, forcing the head to tilt down while the arms are reaching forward. The posture might not immediately seem uncomfortable, but it puts a strain on the muscles (like your trapezius and scalenes) and cervical vertebrae supporting your head. Upper Crossed Syndrome often occurs as a result.
Upper Crossed Syndrome
Upper Crossed Syndrome gets its name from the X formation of the overlapping underused and overused muscles in the upper body due to poor posture. Upper Crossed Syndrome occurs when the muscles of the neck, chest and shoulders become deformed due to overactivity or strain of upper back and neck muscles and underuse of chest and lower back muscles.
When your posture is hunched or slouched, like over a laptop, your shoulders push forward and collapse into your chest, straining and overusing the levator scapula and upper trapezius while the major and minor pectoralis chest muscles become shortened and tight. Surrounding muscles in the front of the neck (cervical flexor) and lower back (lower trapezius and rhomboid) that are meant to counter muscles supporting proper posture then also become weakened through underuse.
The optimal biomechanics for the alignment of the neck and head is when the eyes are kept level, eyes gazing directly forward. The neck muscles and vertebrae can easily support the weight of the head in this position for hours.
Adding a slight downward tilt, however, forces the neck to support the weight of the head unevenly, acting like a lever, to keep it in position. This unequal weight compresses the spine and vertebrae, and changes the entire body’s center of gravity. To balance the forward tilting head, the upper body shifts backwards and the lower back and hips tilt forward, sending the entire alignment of the spine out of whack.
Adding a stretch into your daily routine yields great rewards to help achieve a healthier body. You might feel stiff and tight at first, but over time, range of motion should improve.
Stretch your neck, back, chest and arms to relieve a lot of the tension built up from sitting at a desk or in front of a computer. Taking as little as 2-3 minutes each hour to stretch can go a long way.
Stretching in the Body
When muscles are inactive or resting, they shorten and tighten up. Slowly lengthening the muscles until the point of tension and holding through the tension until it starts to cease or lessen lightly pulls the shortened muscles, restoring their shape for increased motion and activity.
I Don’t Have Time to Stretch
Trust me, you do. Just as important as drinking water or coffee to stay hydrated and focused, and as necessary as taking bathroom breaks, your body needs to stretch.
The human body was built to run, climb, build, and do so many other physical activities. Inactivity causes prolonged muscular tension, leading to microtrauma to the soft tissue. Sitting for eight or more hours a day is not conducive to spinal health, so our bodies need to stretch to undo the buildup and tension of holding the same position for an extended time.
If you’re worried about taking time to stretch, simply combine it with each coffee or bathroom break. Stretch for a minute, get up, get what you need, and do one more stretch before resuming work. While stretching is initially hard to incorporate into a busy working day, your body will begin to relax and rely on each short break. You might even find yourself feeling refreshed and more focused after each short stretch break throughout the day.
Spread the Stretch
Working remotely has seen more teams connect on a personal level. Try sharing your brief stretch routine with coworkers after a long meeting or in the middle of a strenuous day. Encourage each other to take those 2-3 minutes throughout the day and the entire team might just be happier, healthier, more focused and more comfortable despite working from home.
Need more than stretching to feel comfortable again? Schedule a chiropractor visit at our South Burlington clinic.