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How to deal with Postural Pain

Published by Clinic Admin on Mar 25, 2011 in Physiotherapy

Postural Pain - Toronto Physiotherapy

For the past few years there has been an increase in the number of people who complain of moderate to severe neck pain that progressively worsens with little to no relief.  Although, there are several factors and causes for people to experience neck pain, one common feature that sticks out as a cause is poor posture.  Neck pain and poor posture are particularly related to those who spend time hunched over sitting behind a desk with their head and neck leaned forward for the better part of their day, whether its work related or casually on the computer surfing the internet.  The implications from sitting at a desk for an extended period of time are postural pain syndrome.

How can sitting behind a desk lead to postural pain syndrome?  Quite simply poorly equipped work stations where ergonomics are neglected combined with a lack of sense of awareness of poor posture.

Some of the signs and symptoms of postural pain syndrome are headaches, weakness and fatigue in the upper back/shoulder areas, and neck pain. Often, pains in these areas are also accompanied by “shooting pain” down the arms as well as in the neck and upper back.  The “shooting pain” is described as numbness and/or tingling by most people.  This occurs when nerve roots and sometimes blood vessels are being pinched upon in the neck and upper back because of poor posture.

Over time with sustained poor posture abnormal stress is put on the muscles, joints, and neurological tissues which can lead to pain, degenerative and structural changes.  In addition, the muscles in the areas effected become weak, shortened, and lengthened creating muscle imbalances in some areas all leading to postural pain syndrome.  Subsequently the muscles usually effected are in both the front and back of the neck that attach to the shoulder blade and upper thorax and muscles behind the head which when they become tight can lead to headaches.  The result being individuals developing forward head posture, rounded shoulders and round back. 

But not to worry, here are some simple tips to help you prevent and above all help decrease some of the symptoms of postural pain syndrome.

1. Make sure to take frequent breaks from your desk/computer work.  You may want to set a timer to help remind you to stop what you’re doing and step away for a quick stretch or to walk around.  A general rule of thumb may be to take a break every 30-45 minutes.  It doesn’t have to be a long break either, 2-3 minutes to allow for some stretches.

2. Make changes to your work station that is ergonomical.

  1. a) Be sure to have a good chair - one that is adjustable in height (your feet should rest flat on the floor), backrest to adjust forward / backwards /up / down. Also of importance is to sit fully back against your chair when sitting.  Having a chair with an arm rest would be preferable.

  2. b) It is also important to have your keyboard, mouse and pad if using a computer,  at a height that allows your wrist to be in a neutral position (not flexed or extended), and elbows bent at about 90 degrees.

  3. c) Lastly, ensure that your computer screen is at eye level to avoid having to put your neck in an awkward position when working.

3. Three Simple stretches:

  1. a) Place your right arm behind your back and tilt your head to the left and hold between 15-30 seconds.  This will stretch your right upper trapezius muscle.  Perform the same stretch for the left upper trapezius by switching arm and tilting head to the right.  Repeat both 3 times.

  2. b) Another good neck stretch is to turn your head to right as far as possible and tilt head downwards as comfortable as possible and hold for 15-30 seconds.  Afterwards, perform the same for the left side.  Repeat Both 3 times.

  3. c) Bring both of your shoulders back by squeezing your shoulder blades together and holding it for 15-30 seconds.  Repeat 3 times.

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