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An End to Neck and Back Pain

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  [caption id="attachment_115" align="alignright" width="300"]Are your habits causing you neck pain? Are your habits causing you neck pain?[/caption] Ouch, my neck hurts. Ooooh, my lower back is killing me. Do you hear this echoed at work or at home… or perhaps say it yourself frequently? Pain in your neck and back are some of the most common complaints today, and can be debilitating. Stabbing pains and muscle stiffness can make it unbearable to turn your head when you drive, or bend forward to pick up your child. It’s seldom one single cause, but the sum of many things you do all day that contribute to your neck and back pain. What’s causing your neck and back pain?   Think about what most of us do every day. Soon after we wake up we sit down for breakfast and coffee. Then we sit in our car and drive to work. We arrive at the office and sit down at a desk. For the next several hours we sit, often hunched over a computer. After a long day, we get back in our car and drive home. We sit down and have dinner, flop on the couch to watch TV, and go to bed. Eight hours later we do it all again. What happens after months and even years of this? Neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, and a slumped posture. Our bodies weren’t made for so much sitting, and so little moving. It’s no wonder our muscles are protesting! Here are 3 common activities that contribute to neck and back pain, and some solutions to try right now. 1. Correct your Forward Head Posture: We just described a typical day for many of us. Picture how we place our bodies during all these activities (you may be doing this as you read this newsletter): Your head is forward, and your shoulders are rounded and slumped. Our modern lifestyle is very unbalanced. Every day we place our bodies in certain positions to get our work done and take care of tasks. When we drive a car, work on a computer, prepare food at a kitchen counter, and take care of young children, our hands are in front of us. These are all “forward postures.” After a while, we become conditioned to these postures. Your body adapts to the positions you place them in on a daily basis. But by repeating these positions, often unconsciously, something happens. The muscles in front of your body become much stronger and tighter, and the muscles of your upper back (around the shoulder blades) become stretched out and weaker. This creates muscle imbalances, which leads to stiffness and pain. This phenomena is so common, that it even has a name, “Foreword Head Posture” or FHP. If you try to correct your posture just by “sitting up straight” you’ll soon become tired and irritated. Correcting muscle imbalances A better way to correct muscles imbalances is to stand up from your computer every 20-30 minutes, and clasp your arms behind your back to gently stretch out your tight chest muscles. If you do any weight lifting, concentrate on strengthening your back muscles, and stretching your chest muscles. Most people do the opposite, because your chest muscles are strong so it’s easy to work them, while your back muscles are weak so you avoid exercising them because it hurts. 2. Modify your office environment. If you’re like most Americans, you spend eight to 12 hours a day sitting. If you have an office job, it’s essential to address this ongoing cause of neck and shoulder pain. Ideally, your chair should be designed to recline slightly so it prevents you from slouching; only the best ergonomic chairs do this, so try to test several before you buy one. Or try the Back Joy, a type of seat cushion that you sit on. It instantly improves your posture and takes pressure off your spine. (see the Check it Out section, below) Next, adjust your computer screen. Make sure the top of your screen is level with your eyes, and about two feet away from your face. You may need to put some books under it to place it at the right level. 3. Adjust your daily activities Throughout the day and night, you’re unconsciously contributing to muscle imbalances that lead to stiffness and pain. For example, sitting actually puts more pressure on your back than standing, especially when you sit for long periods of time slouched over, with your neck craned to see the television, or if you slouch while you watch TV. Correct your sleeping posture Sleeping on your stomach is one of the worst positions for your neck. It forces you to turn your head to one side or the other, virtually guaranteeing that you’ll wake up with a sore and stiff neck. Sleep on your back, or on your side using pillows for support. Try placing a pillow between your legs or under your knees. Use a thin pillow rather than a puffy one, which keeps your head in Forward Head Posture all night. Protect your neck from your tablet and mobile phone Mobile phones and tablet are designed to makes calls and interact or read for short periods of time. They were not designed to be used 8 hours a day as work computers. Looking down at phone and tablets, and texting with rounded shoulders will contribute to forward head posture. Take frequent breaks to stretch your eyes and your back. Carry your purse and wallet properly Take a load off your back by lightening your purse. Many women have shoulder and neck pain simply because they carry too much “stuff” in their purses. Try purging your purse periodically, and consider buying one that you can sling across your body. Men, avoid putting your wallet in your back pocket, where you sit on it. It’s surprising how many men complain of hip and back pain, without realizing that sitting on a wallet can throw your spine out of alignment. This leads to muscle imbalances and tension that causes back and neck pain. A wallet in your back pocket can also compress your sciatic nerve, leading to pain in your lower back or legs. These small changes can go a long way towards alleviating your neck and back pain.

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