I have alot of clients who come to me with chronic pain of some sort. I can take one look at their posture and know why, and yet they seem mystified. “Oh I don’t know how I got this shoulder pain? I think it was from yoga class/an exercise I did/putting groceries in the car”……insert one of hundreds of scenarios here. If you sit all day for work, or for leisure, eventually you’ll screw up your posture bad enough that you’ll get injured doing something as mundane as putting clothes in the dryer. Let’s face it- sitting at a desk all day is disastrous for the human body on so many levels, but it is often chronic pain that first gets someone to be aware of the dangers of a sedentary life. Neck, shoulder and back pain are the most common complaints. It’s a wonderful “side effect” of working at a computer or your desk all day. Combine poor posture- rounded low back, rounded shoulders, head forward- with prolonged static postures like sitting at your desk without a break- and you’ve got a recipe for pain, and eventually, even injuries. As I have discussed before, we are really designed to move our bodies all day in order to stay healthy. Sitting for prolonged periods of time is detrimental not only for our strength and posture, but also, as a recent research study indicated, detrimental to our overall health and longevity. Those individuals who sit the most have been shown to have the highest incidence of diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
To help yourself, get up frequently from your chair/desk/computer, once very 45 minutes at least. Make sure your desk set up is ergonomic, but even with ergonomic desk stations, you still need to move. Make sure that when sitting, your shoulders are relaxed with arms at your side. Feet should be on the floor and you should be sitting up straight. Some research has shown that excessively straight posture does not help back pain, so again, the message is to sit with awareness, but move every opportunity you can get.
Specifically, neck and shoulder pain is often caused by forward head and rounded shoulders, so throughout the day, stretch your chest muscles and shoulder muscles and tuck your chin in. To address pain in the low back, you can try stretching the muscles of the hips- the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, lateral hip rotators. Stretching will not solve the entire problem, however, as strength training and core training are also necessary to strengthen the muscles that hold your spine safe and give you the muscle endurance to maintain good posture throughout the day. Without strength training, muscles shut off from lack of movement and become weak. So, not only do we need to stretch tight muscles, we need to strengthen weak ones. As always, with either or both conditions, you should consult your doctor first.