PROLONGED USE OF COMPUTERS, SMART PHONES, IPADS & TABLET DEVICES AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF UPPER CROSS SYNDROME.

 

In the last article, we discussed migraines, tension headache & cluster headache and the how crucial good posture is to preventing these from occurring. In this article, we are going to focus on the impact of sitting incorrectly at computer screens, smart phones, and tablet devices all day.

THE DAWN OF BAD POSTURE

Since the early nineties, a growing number of people have been using personal computers both in their work and for personal use. As a result of the introduction of computers (and later tablet devices & smart phones) meant the introduction of a whole new era of postural issues. Office work has changed quite considerably over the years, for example over 20 years ago involved a wide variety of activities such as reading, writing, typing etc. It may be hard to explain this to millennia’s but these activities involved contrasting changes in activities, with natural short breaks and the activities were sufficiently varied to produce changes in posture. Ask any office worker today to perform these activities and they will tell you that they are all performed at the desk, on a computer.

With the dramatic change in the “improvement” in technology, we find ourselves carrying out multiple activities on computers without ever having to leave the workstation. The knock on effect of this convenience means that disorders involving the shoulders, neck & upper limbs are becoming more and more common. Take a moment to stop and look around you, observe people on their phones, and watch as they have their head cast downward, glued to the screen. Now consider the impact this is having on your neck.

THE CONDITIONS ASSOCIATED WITH BAD POSTURE

The best of us, no matter how well intentioned, suffer a degree of being slumped over when working at a computer. Eventually our body gets tired and our mind takes over, forcing us to adopt a “comfortable” position.  This comfortable position can result in a condition known as Upper Cross Syndrome. This is a postural abnormality where the upper body and head is drawn into a forward position due to being hunched over a desk all day. This condition does not just affect desk workers, but all those who do prolonged activities that requires them to have their arms reaching outward in front of them such as those who drive long distances or cyclists.

With Upper Cross Syndrome, the muscles which appear to be over tight are those muscles in the chest (pectoralis major and minor) as well as the muscles at the front of the neck (sternocleidomastoid and scalenes) and also the muscles of the upper back (trapezius, rhomboids and levator scapula). While some or all of these muscle are tight, the weak muscles are the deep neck flexor muscles which are responsible for holding the neck back – stopping it from being pulled forward. In addition the scapular stabilisers muscles, which are responsible for drawing the shoulder blades to the middle of your back, are also weakened.

The ultimate result of sitting in an incorrect position for prolonged periods of time is the muscles tighten and becomes tense which in turn can lead to upper back/neck pain, headache/migraine and decreased range of motion – to name but a few problems.

Earlier in the article I asked you to consider those around you on mobile phones. The head weighs somewhere between 8-10lbs (depending on the individual. When you look straight ahead, with good posture, the weight of the head on the neck (cervical spine) is somewhere in the range of 10-12lbs. However, as we begin to look downward, the weight/pressure on your neck (cervical spine) increases. By looking 15degrees lower increases the weight/pressure on the cervical spine to 27lbs. This weight increase is proportional until the chin is on the chest where the weight/pressure on the neck at this point is 60lbs.

neck.jpg

 IS IT TOO LATE TO CORRECT THIS PROBLEM?

It is never too late to start correcting posture.One of the best thing to do throughout the day is move on a regular basis. If you sit long hours at a desk, make sure you stand up and walk around for approximately 5 minutes once every hour. In addition regular stretches and, more importantly, strengthening exercises should be incorporated into everyday activities. Below are some stretches which can be performed while at work to easy tight muscles.

Chest/Bicep Stretch:

While standing, interlock your hands/fingers behind your back. Keeping your arms straight, raise them as high as you can until you feel a comfortable stretch through your chest and biceps. Keep the body in this upright position for 20-30 seconds and repeat this 2-3 times.

Neck/Upper Back Stretch:

While sitting in an upright position, pull the shoulder blades together and reach one arm to the lower part of the back. Keeping the chin level and the head back, use the other arm to gently pull your head to the opposite side as if you are trying to bring you ear to the shoulder.  Once you feel a comfortable stretch, hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on both sides 2-3 times each.

WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?

In addition to these stretches you may also benefit from some deep tissue massage of the neck and upper back to aid with the removal of adhesion's deep in the muscles.These adhesion's will have built up over prolonged years of sitting at computer stations with incorrect posture. Deep tissue massage coupled with strengthening exercises available from The Muscle Manager will aid in the correction of posture and decrease in the symptoms associated with Upper Cross Syndrome.

If you wish to discuss your symptoms further, or find out more about the best strengthening exercises for correcting Upper Cross Syndrome, you can book your appointment today by popping into us in CityGym Limerick. You can also call The Muscle Manager on 085-704 5157, or email us on niall@themusclemanager.ie

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter&Instagram.