Driving, working with computers, housework, tending to babies, etc. all lead to postural problems. This causes taught neck muscles at the back of our heads, which then causes headaches. The muscles develop painful trigger points and muscle spasms become common. The rate that arthritis will occur in the neck is accelerated and many people end up developing a small hump at the bottom of their necks where this stress begins to manifest itself.
Proper body mechanics is the most important thing you can achieve to relieve neck pain; this is the correct interrelationship between your head, neck, upper body and lumbar spine during movement and rest. Correct body mechanics will minimize the stress on muscles, bones and joints, so damaged tissues can heal and pain can decrease.
The lower back provides the support for the rest of the spine and should be straight from the front and have a curve or 'Lordosis' concave to the rear. The position for the chest and upper back is chest up, shoulders back with shoulder blades retracted. To complete the proper alignment, pull your chin back slightly and this then forms the neutral spine position that should be used for sitting, standing, walking and all daily activities. It will feel awkward at first, but the more you adopt the neutral spine position, the more comfortable and balanced it will feel. Movement from this position will place less stress on our tissues. Eventually it becomes automatic and your neck pain will usually have substantially diminished.
There are a few basic things to consider with ergonomics. We should not slouch but try and stay as upright as possible. Special chairs and products can assist this. Whilst working on a computer, your hands should reach the keyboard with your arms at your side and your elbows at right angles. If you write more than type, your desk should be an inch higher. Your computer monitor should be directly in front of you and your eyes should fall naturally on the centre of the screen. When working from source material, position it between the keyboard and the monitor propped up by a slant board, or attached at eye level next to the screen. A headset is a must if you talk on the telephone for long periods, especially if you must write at the same time.
Neck motion exercises, whilst seated, will help and every hour or so one should rise from the seated position and stretch.
No matter what daily activities we are involved in, there are always ergonomic considerations. Anything we do repetitively in this gravity environment will have an effect on us. That effect can be healthy or it can be deleterious with posture being the difference.
Timothy Errington, Doctor of Chiropractic, gives a free weekly health talk at his office in Guadalmina.
Call 952 880 398 for details.