Anyone who has to spend long hours sitting at a desk, computer, or classroom is at risk of ongoing neck and upper back pain. The discomfort can be tightness in the upper part of the shoulders, pain or burning in the neck and shoulder blades, or a tired feeling in the neck as if the head is too heavy. We wish we could be awake normally, but computers, meetings, and classes are the cards we are dealt in the life we live.
The wrong thing is to do nothing. There are steps we can take to mitigate and manage the stress that builds up from our sedentary lifestyles. This article will discuss the four actions we can take to regain our health.
First, believe it or not, we don’t have to sit down to work on the computer, attend a meeting, or take a class. We may stand while attending to these duties. Now there is technology to have a variable desk that allows us to put our computer on a desk that can be lifted so that we can use it while standing at our workplace. These items typically come with a spring-loaded mechanical lift system to raise or lower the desk platform. The platforms can be on two levels for the placement of our monitor and keyboard. Also, it would be wise to also get an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. A quick internet search will show many types of variable standing desks at various price points.
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 good to inform the speaker, supervisor, or teacher of the meeting or class before the start that you intend to get up from your seat and stand up periodically. Be minimally disruptive.
The second step that can be taken to be proactive if you need to be sedentary for long periods of time is to do some preventive exercises. In general, it helps to stretch the muscles in the front of the neck and upper body and to strengthen the muscles in the back of the neck and lower shoulder blade. An internet search for the term “Upper Cross Syndrome” will provide a general description of what needs to be done. When I see a patient who has chronic neck and upper back problems, I usually demonstrate and supervise the proper exercises to perform. These simple and quick exercises are great to help provide ongoing management to minimize problems.
Our third preventative activity to take is the simplest yet most powerful human activity you can do; just walking. Walking with good posture and swinging your arms freely is the best exercise we can do. I call it “the antidote to sitting down.” Walking is what humans have done before for tens of thousands of years. Our bodies are adapted to it and need it. However, in the last few generations we have gone from walking miles a day to being couch potatoes. Take advantage of any opportunity you have to take a walk, be it five minutes or an hour. Ideally, several 5-15 minute walks a day during breaks are ideal along with two to three 30-60 minute walks per week.
Our fourth recommended remedy to counteract prolonged sitting is to get regular chiropractic care. Chiropractic treatment will help a person maintain good spinal alignment and movement of the neck and upper back. Chiropractors are also experts in explaining proper posture, exercises to perform, and other activities necessary to address the mechanical stress associated with long hours of sitting.
We don’t have to become victims of a sedentary lifestyle and suffer ill effects. While it’s best to take action when one begins to sit for long periods of time, these ideas can be implemented at any time by anyone.