Anyone who has to sit long hours at a desk, computer or classroom is at risk for ongoing neck and upper back pain. The discomfort can be tightness across the tops of the shoulders, ache or burning in the neck and shoulder blades or a feeling of tiredness in the neck as if the head is too heavy. We wish we could be up and about normally but computers, meetings and classes are the cards we are dealt in the life we live.
The wrong thing to do is to do nothing. There are steps we can take to mitigate and manage the stress that accumulates from our sedentary lifestyle. This article will discuss the four actions we can take to take back our health.
First, believe it or not, we do not have to sit to do computer work, attend a meeting or take a class. We can stand while attending to these duties. Technology now exists to have a variable desk that allows us to put our computer on a desktop that can be raised so that we can use it while standing at our worksite. Typically, these items come with a spring-loaded lift mechanical system to raise or lower the desk platform. Platforms can be two-tiered for placement of our monitor and keyboard. Additionally, it would be wise to also obtain an anti-fatigue floormat on which to stand. A quick search of the Internet will show many types of standing variable desks at various prices.
If one is required to attend a meeting or take a class it is perfectly acceptable to stand in the back of the room periodically. As a matter of etiquette it would probably be well for one to inform the speaker, the supervisor or teacher of the meeting or class prior to the start that you intend to get out of your seat and stand periodically. Be minimally disruptive.
The second step one can take to be proactive if required to be sedentary for long periods of time is to perform some preventative exercises. Usually it is helpful to stretch muscles of the front of our neck and upper body and strengthen muscles in the back of the neck and lower shoulder blade area. An Internet search of the term “Upper Crossed Syndrome” will provide an overview of what should be done. When I see a patient who has chronic neck and upper back problems I will typically demonstrate and supervise the appropriate exercises to be performed. These simple and quick exercises are great to help provide ongoing management to minimize problems.
Our third preventative activity to take is the most simple but powerful activity of human can perform; simply walking. Walking with good posture and swinging one’s arms freely is the best exercise we can perform. I call it “the antidote for sitting.” Walking is what human beings have done before tens of thousands of years. Our bodies are adapted to it and need it. However, in the past several generations we have gone from walking miles a day to being couch potatoes. Any chance one gets to take a walk whether it be five minutes or an hour should be seized. Ideally, several 5 to 15 minute daily walks during break times are ideal along with two or three 30 to 60 minute walks per week.
Our fourth recommended remedy to counteract prolonged sitting is to obtain periodic chiropractic care. Chiropractic treatment will help a person to keep good spinal alignment and motion of the neck and upper back. Chiropractors are also experts at explaining proper posture, exercises to perform and other activities needed to address the mechanical stress associated with long hours of sitting.
We do not have to become victims of a sedentary lifestyle and suffer ill effects. While it is best to take measures when one initially starts to sit for prolonged time periods these ideas can be implemented any time by anyone.