Over the past weekend, I was asked a couple of questions on Facebook. The first was what stretching exercises can I do as I spend too much time at a desk and my neck hurts? The second was can upper back muscles pain affect the lower back? These two questions are quite well linked and I’ll answer them both here.
So firstly, we’ll answer the question on how sitting at a desk can affect the neck and back and what can be done to correct this. The primary reason for back and neck problems from desk sitting is mostly due to gravity. As gravity weighs on us, its effect is to compress the joints which in turn can generate pain. The proper posture for sitting at a desk is to sit upright with head up. For this, your computer would need to be at eye level. This helps your back and neck and the chances of getting in too much pain from this is small.
However, for the vast majority of us, we are looking down at our computers with head forwards and often with shoulders hunched. This is the problem because it generates two issues. Firstly, joint compression is greater because the body is in an unnatural position and the forces of gravity weigh down heavier. Secondly, muscles will tighten and contract as they work hard to keep your body at that particular angle. A good example is that if you tilt your head 60 degrees off proper upright position, it adds around 60lbs of additional weight. Your muscles will be working extra hard to keep your neck at that angle.
Over the course of the day, as you continue working at these unnatural angles, extra burden is placed on your muscles and your joints contract which generates friction and ultimately, inflammation and pain. Consequently. a build up of pain and dysfunction at the upper back and neck may also cause problems further down your spine as it has a trickle down effect. Muscles are overworked at the top and this places additional burden on muscles on the lower back too which can generate pain.
What we have to do is counter that effect. And this is where the other question about exercises and stretches comes into play.
Firstly, you need to train yourself to sit upright. This will take time as it will feel unnatural at first because your muscles aren’t conditioned to being in an upright position anymore. So as soon as you catch yourself hunched forwards, correct yourself and sit upright.
Also, take regular breaks from being at your desk if you can. Every 30 minutes or so, do some simple stretches, stand up, walk around for a bit before returning to your desk.
We have some great stretches that you can try and do each day to help your neck and back and counter the compression you have. They can really help.
Inversion tables are superb way of tractioning the body and decompressing the spine. They’re available from Amazon for less than $100 and using one for 20 minutes a day can make all the difference.
And of course, regular chiropractic care is also very good for helping to eradicate and manage back pain as it too decompresses joints and loosens your spine up. If you have any questions, you can message us on Facebook, call or shoot an email. We’re here to help.