Preventing Neck Pain While Working

Preventing Neck Pain While Working

After a long day of sitting in your chair, staring at a computer, do your neck and spine feel stuck? Whether you are still working from home at a less-than-ideal setup, or back at your office, chances are your posture is suffering from long hours at a desk. Are your shoulders rounded forward, leaving you wondering why your neck hurts? 

We know that poor posture can lead to neck and back discomfort, but coupled with incorrect equipment and workplace stress, this is a recipe for pain. Straining your body all day during work will decrease productivity and minimize your capacity for mental concentration. Both physical and mental stressors increase activation of the upper trapezius more than any other neck muscle. According to The Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, studies suggest that the upper trapezius muscles are activated by psychosocial stress independent of changes in concentration or posture. The Journal explains studies done by University of Colorado’s Physical Therapy Program comparing the effects of mentally challenging computer work performed with and without exposure to a psychosocial stressor on neck muscle activity and posture. The cervical flexor and extensor muscles however, do not experience a change in activity when adding workplace stress. It is important that we know the specific area that is being overworked in response to stress so that we can stretch that muscle and keep it relaxed throughout our day. Taking breaks in between work may be hard for you, so these practical tips will alleviate neck and back pain WHILE you work.   

1. Keep your neck from straining forward for prolonged periods of time 

  • Raise your screen to eye level 
  • Change your font to your eye’s preferred text size 
  • Lead movements with your eyes more than your whole head and slouching with your shoulders and neck 
  • 20/20/20 rule: look at something about 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds at a time 

2. Reset your postural habits 

  • Lean back in your chair, rest your shoulders directly over your hips, keep your chest open and feet flat on the ground 
  • Adjust your screen and chair to an appropriate distance apart without compromising your new seated position 
  • Avoid pinning your phone between your shoulder and head while multitasking 

3. Break up the stiffness from staying still all day

  • Incorporate movement during work (i.e. walking during calls, our CEO is famous for doing this!) 
  • Stretch! Take 6-8 seconds in every rep. Perform 3-5 reps on each muscle. After a brief break (up to 10 seconds) you can perform a second set! 

*As you stretch, remember to exhale during the stretch and inhale as you come out of the stretch. This will help you see the most progress in your range of motion with each repetition.  

Move as far as your body will allow by itself before using assistance. This will allow for a more functional and impactful session.  

Below are some stretches you can perform to improve your posture and relieve pain: 

Neck Extensors 

Bring your chin down toward your chest and release back to neutral position. Try with your hands behind your head, adding light assistance. 

Neck Flexors

Start leaning forward to disengage the muscles that hold your head up, resting your elbows on your knees. Leading with your eyes, look up towards the ceiling. Keeping your mouth closed and teeth together will allow for a deeper stretch. 

Try taking your elbows off your knees and use either your fingers or palms to assist at the end of your range of motion on your forehead.  

Scalenes 

Sitting upright with your head facing forward, gently bring your ear down to the shoulder. Try bringing your hand to the top of the head to provide light assistance towards the end range of motion. Keep your opposite shoulder down. 

Levator Scapula 

Turn your head 45 degrees away from the stretching side (or until your chin is slightly outside the knees). Bring only your chin and head forward toward your chest.  Bringing your hand to the back of your head, perform the stretch and provide light assistance at the end of the range of motion.

Trapezius

Turn your head 45 degrees towards the stretching side. Bring your ear forward and down toward your chest. Perform the same stretch with your hand on the top of your head, bringing your elbow down toward the floor.  

Back Flexion 

Sitting toward the front of your chair, tuck your chin toward your chest and reach your hands in between your knees, down to the floor. If you can, reach your hands towards the back legs of the chair or pull on your own legs to add assistance. 

Thoracic Extension 

Place your hands on your knees for balance. Extend your back, lifting your breast bone, head, and eyes to the ceiling. Try to arch your spine during this movement, be careful to not just lean back in the chair  

Pecs

Start by placing one arm against a wall edge or door frame. Keep your elbow straight and palm against the wall with the arm at shoulder height. Pinch the shoulder blades together. Engaging the back muscles inhibits (turns off) the pec muscle. Turn your shoulders away from the wall. 

Written by Cierra Chamberlain, LYMBR Stretch Therapist.


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References:  
Bahar Shahidi, Ashley Haight, Katrina Maluf, Differential effects of mental concentration and acute psychosocial stress on cervical muscle activity and posture, Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, Volume 23, Issue 5, 2013, Pages 1082-1089, ISSN 1050-6411, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jelekin.2013.05.009 (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1050641113001235)  

Is Your Knee Pain A Pain In The Butt?

Is Your Knee Pain A Pain In The Butt?

If life did not bless you with the best knees or hips in the world, don’t stress! Sometimes the sports we play or jobs we do have a negative impact on our body. We all know someone who has suffered from knee problems. It might even be you. One muscle that can impact your knees is a muscle you may not have considered. If you’re seated and reading this then you are using this muscle right now because you are sitting on it! This muscle, technically known as the Gluteus Maximus, is our biggest muscle in our body. This muscle helps to cushion us when we fall on our backside and propel us as we walk. Sometimes this muscle can actually be the cause of your knee pain.

This may seem weird to some, because the knee is so far from the hip. The truth is that the Gluteus Maximus attaches to the top of your hip bone, right on the side. The muscle doesn’t stop there, it actually becomes a tendon and continues down to the outside of the knee. So if someone stands on one leg, juts their hip out or even sits with their knees touching they could develop a knee issue.

We see a lot of runners who come to the studio for knee pain, but also people that sit for hours at work without taking any meaningful breaks to move around and relieve some tension.

Focusing on the Glute Max region releases muscular tension that can be influencing the hips and knees, giving you the best chance to crush your next run, ride or whatever gets you moving! It can even make those long work days a little more pleasant. 

Low Back Pain + Your IT Band

Low Back Pain + Your IT Band

One of the most common reasons clients come to our studio is to find relief from lower back pain. We see this in clients who sit at desks all day, as well as clients who are very active either training for a race or maintaining a rigorous workout schedule. The origin of this pain often stems from the IT Band and the glutes. The IT Band, also known as the iliotibial band, runs lateral to the quads (the outside of the thigh). This band runs from the iliac crest, which is part of the pelvic-hip complex (as shown below) and around the outside of the knee. The knee is the most common place people think of when they hear the words “tight IT Band” – but the low back is just as common an area to be affected.

If you take a look at the study of movement, muscles work in conjunction in order to facilitate movement by pulling on the bone; everything within the body is somehow connected. Therefore, anything that is misaligned or tight may cause an improper movement pattern somewhere else in the body, altering proper function.

If there is tension in the IT Band or gluteus, they begin to pull on adjacent muscles within the complex of the hips, notably the Quadratus Lumborum (QL’s). The QL muscle is technically an abdominal muscle but it has tremendous impact on the lumbar region of your lower back.

The IT band provides stability at the hip during lateral movements. Other muscles that stabilize the hip includes the gluteus medius and the quadratus lumborum (QL). As the IT Band tightens due to injury or overuse, friction will cause a downwards pull of the gluteus medius and the QL, causing the upper body to laterally bend a few degrees to the right. Even a slight pull on the lumbar spine could potentially compress the nerves and lead to pain and even greater neuromuscular problems later in life.

How do we approach this in the studio? We begin with an assessment by performing various stretches on the client. First, we test the hip flexors and the muscles of the quads to determine whether these muscles contribute to the lower back pain. From this point on, we turn to the IT Band and test its range of motion. Often times the IT Band contributes to tightness in the gluteus medius. Tightness in this muscle creates tension within the rest of the gluteus muscles. After stretching the gluteus muscles, we make sure to check in with the client to see how they are feeling after the series of stretches. The last piece within this series is to target the Quadratus Lumborum. Since the QL has several attachments into the spine, we make sure to perform a light and smooth stretch in order to allow the client to relax on the table and prevent the nervous system from protecting the muscle. Once the nervous system has relaxed, we see incredible results from the stretch,relieving a great amount of tension within our client’s lower back. We then re-asses by testing the range of motion of the IT Band and see how the client feels when they get off the table. As they start walking around the studio, they experience notable relief in their lower back and improvement in their gait.

Lower back pain affects so many people – yet every body is different. Treating the whole body is key to finding the source of the pain and finding the path to relief and recovery.

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Unwind Your Poor Posture

Unwind Your Poor Posture

Your posture affects everything you do in life, work and sport. The way we move, or don’t move, through our day has lasting effects on our body. Here are the 5 main areas of which you should be mindful, to minimize the chances of poor posture impeding your day and your ability to be active.

Chest/Biceps 

Rounded shoulders are usually one of the first indications of poor posture and some muscular imbalance in that area.  Oftentimes, this will suggest that the chest, or pectoral muscles, and the biceps are tight.  Shoulders that are rounded forward towards the front of the body shorten these muscles, causing tightness. Daily activities that may cause this include typing at a computer while sitting at a desk or carrying a backpack heavier than it should be.  Great stretches to help lengthen these muscles include the doorway stretch pictured below, and child’s pose. 

Hip Flexors 

Most people are surprised to learn that their hip flexor muscles play a vital role in posture, as they connect the torso to the legs, aiding in spine stabilization. Tight hip flexors often reveal an anterior pelvic tilt, meaning the pelvis is rotated forward and the spine exhibits added curvature.  The shortening of these muscles, as well as an excessively curved spine, will cause the upper body to be shifted forward.  A sedentary lifestyle or sitting for prolonged amounts of time may cause this tightness.  To help decrease tension in the hip flexors, make sure to get up and walk around if you find yourself sitting for an extended period of time. 

Quadratus Lumborum (QL) 

A tight quadratus lumborum, or QL, is often the source of low back pain and an anterior pelvic tilt.  The Q Lis located in your lower back on either side of the lumbar spine. It starts at your lowest rib and ends at the top of your pelvis. Much like the hip flexors, a tight QL can be the result of sitting for long periods of time, sedentary behavior, and weak core muscles.  Strengthening the core muscles and stretching the QL through back rotations will help correct this imbalance by bringing the pelvis and spine back to a more neutral position. 

Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) 

Are tight lats affecting your posture? Tight latissimus dorsi, or “lats”, can be easily observed during a postural assessment. Look at yourself in the mirror: Is one shoulder higher than the other? If one side of the torso appears shorter than the other, the side that appears shorter is tighter.  This imbalance can be caused by carrying a bag on only one side of the body. By carrying a bag on one side, the lats on the other side will start to compensate and shorten for the unilateral added weight. Favoring leaning to one side more when sitting will also cause tension on that side’s lats.  Make sure to properly stretch both side lats during the day. If a shoulder bag is being used, make a conscious effort to not overstuff it so that the spine can stay aligned, and alternate carrying on your left and right side. The stretch pictured below is one of many to target this area, and is a fan favorite amongst our clients.

Neck 

Stiffness in the neck muscles will also cause a shift in posture.  In today’s technology-based society, it is easy to find ourselves looking down at some sort of screen, whether it be at a monitor in the office, or a phone on the commute home.  This repetitive stance of looking down causes the muscles in the front of the neck to tighten and the head to protrude forward, placing it out of line with the spine.  Bringing any electronics in use to eye level, as well as making a conscious effort to sit up straight, will aim to prevent this imbalance. 

Good posture takes practice and mindfulness of how you carry yourself throughout your day. Better posture leads to a better, more comfortable life.

SUBSCRIBE TO LYMBR ON DEMAND to get access to self-stretches you can do anytime, anywhere to supplement the work you do in the studio and keep your posture in check! Members get this free, non-members get the first month free. 

Written by, Emma Younghans and Ariel Scheintaub.

3 Simple Yet Effective Stretches For Your Calf Muscles And Ankles

3 Simple Yet Effective Stretches For Your Calf Muscles And Ankles

It’s the height of summer and we’re running more miles, playing more sets, and getting in as many rounds of golf as we can. Are you preparing your body for the demands you’re placing on your muscles and joints?

Every activity involves demands on your lower leg. Below the knee, we have multiple muscles that allow us to push off, jump, change direction and make explosive movements. The calf muscles below the knee include the gastrocnemius, which is the large, two headed muscle that’s primary function is running, jumping and pushing off, while it also helps flex the knee joint, hence its size. The gastrocnemius is a type I muscle fiber, meaning it is responsible for explosive movements. The other muscle that comprises the calf is the soleus. It aids the gastrocnemius yet is utilized more in walking and less explosive movements as it is comprised of type II muscle fibers. Since it is a smaller muscle, it only acts at the ankle joint. The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles come together towards the ankle joint and create a band known as the Achilles tendon. It is crucial to understand that these muscles are very susceptible to injury if exposed to sudden movements and contractions.  

Since the lower leg is such a sensitive area, injuries due to quick and explosive movements can take a long time to recover from, depending on the severity. We have all heard of the dreaded Achilles tendon tear, one of the most painful and hardest injuries to fully recover from, however a calf strain or tear can also be very painful. When an injury like this occurs, people describe the feeling of a pop or even the sensation of being kicked or shot in the leg.  

One of the ways to help prevent this from happening is a to make time for a thorough warm up and cool down. The stretches laid out below show how to stretch each part of the calf with these gastrocnemius and soleus stretches, which will help protect the muscles and surrounding tendons. It will also greatly reduce the risk of ankle injuries. Note: when performing these stretches, each time do one set with the foot pointing straight forward, one with the foot turned in while keeping the knee tracking forward and one with the foot turned out and keeping the knee tracking forward. This will also stretch the medial and lateral aspects of the muscle.  

DISTAL GASTROCNEMIUS  

Distal gastrocnemius – With the band double wrapped around the top of your foot, start with your toes relaxed. Lie flat on the ground with your head supported by a pillow and your non-stretching leg bent next to you. From here, aim your toes towards your shin and use your arms to pull the band for an additional stretch. Gently keep moving through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side. If you are doing the stretch before your activity, use a slightly quicker tempo and if you are stretching after, use a longer tempo. Tip: lying flat is imperative to the specificity of the stretch. If you are sitting upright, it will not target the correct area of the muscle. 

PROXIMAL GASTROCNEMIUS  

Proximal gastrocnemius – With the relaxed leg out straight, double wrap the band around your stretching foot, getting as close to your toes as possible without the band slipping. Lie flat on the ground with your head supported by a pillow and your non-stretching leg bent. With your leg out straight, point your toes towards your shin and pull the band to get an additional stretch. Gently keep moving through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side. The more flexible you are, the higher your leg can remain straight. Do not concern yourself with how high your leg is, focus on keeping it straight. If you are doing the stretch before your activity, use a slightly quicker tempo and if you are stretching after, use a longer tempo.

SOLEUS 

Soleus – sitting on a chair with one foot up and one foot relaxed, take both hands and grab around the middle of your foot. Point you toes straight up and use your hands to help pull upward. Have your leg bent to a comfortable angle, not all the way and keep your heel on the chair. Gently keep moving through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side. Again, If you are doing the stretch before your activity, use a slightly quicker tempo and if you are stretching after, use a longer tempo. 

The next time you plan your run, match or round, be sure to add time before and after to stretch so your body can see you through and perform at the level you expect.