Mark Perren-Jones from The Haven Spa and Health Clinic
First of all I want you to know that neck and upper back painare generally easy to fix. By learning why you are having pain in the first place we can then set about teaching you how to fix your pain and prevent it from happening in the future. Sound simple? It is.
The next time you have a look around an office building, a building site, a school, and a bus stop, on a train or wherever. You will see people slouching in their seats, slouching over their computers, lifting with bent backs and doing a wide range of daily tasks using bad posture. These same people will also more than likely be suffering from back, neck and/or shoulder pain (or all three). They may have constant pain or suffer from ongoing bouts of recurrent pain. They will probably then go to get treatment from a chiropractor, a physiotherapist or a masseur or if these don’t work perhaps an acupuncturist. They may try a yoga class, or the gym or Pilates and try to strengthen and stretch their muscles only to find that their pain comes back. How can this be they ask? The great mystery really is no mystery. As I have mentioned before, treating your own neck pain and making sure it does not come back is easy, you just need to know how. The vast majority of neck pain is from poor posture! If you continue to slouch at your chairs, or at the computer, or whilst you eat, or continue to lift poorly or stand poorly you will not have removed the cause of your pain and thus remain in pain. This is exactly why you can do your well intentioned exercise course but you still suffer from pain. This is why you can get treated by therapist after therapist only to see you pain return after awhile. you can see your chiropractor five times a week but if you then get back into your car from your treatment and slouch into your seat, go home and slouch in front of the television, then spend some time slouched in front of your computer you will again experience pain. This simple piece of knowledge will save you thousands and thousands of dollars in therapist’s bills.
People will go to the gym and do 200 sit-ups but still have lower back pain because they spend the rest of the 8 hours exhibiting poor posture at their home or workplace. You must address the issue of posture in everything that you do.
This is the great secret to eradicating your pain!
If you have pain in your thumb because you continually hit it with a hammer all day, and then go to the physiotherapist to get ultrasound on it, but the next day you are back at work hitting your thumb with a hammer again-you will of course remain in pain. Your necks and backs are no different. Let’s have a look at exactly where the problem lies. It is simple body mechanics.
If you are sitting poorly, standing poorly or doing you daily activities using poor bio-mechanics you will be injuring your neck time and time again. When a person is sitting slouched with the chin jutting forwards they are continually straining the ligaments. The ligaments surround the joints and are responsible for supporting the discs that lay between the vertebrae. After prolonged poor postural habits the ligaments can actually tear. This can then cause pain and if the person continues to have poor posture the ligaments will not heal properly. If good posture is performed this give the ligaments a chance to heal. Think of cutting your elbow, if you continue to bend your elbow you continue to re-injure your cut and the elbow doesn’t heal. However, if you stop bending your elbow, the cut will have a chance to heal and will get better quickly. This is the same with your ligaments of your neck, stop slouching putting your neck into a forward position and your ligaments get a chance to heal finally- thus removing your pain. If you damage your ligaments further though, they can lose the ability to hold your disc in place and the disc may eventually bulge and can press on a spinal nerve causing pain or numbness or pins and needles in the shoulders, arms or hand. The good news is that this too can be helped using some specific exercises and adhering to good postural habits. The exercises will fast track your healing by re-aligning the disc.
Let’s look at the example of a person at a computer. You will see this all day every day, the person is sitting with their head protracted (pushed forwards). In other words, if you were to hang a plumb bob (piece of string with a weight on the end) from their chin it would hit the floor. Their head is too far forward. This then puts the lower neck into a position of flexion. From years of poor posture certain muscles will also chronically shorten causing more pain and dysfunction. This can cause more pain and headaches. Imagine you have a balloon between your hands with one hand above the other. Your hands represent the vertebrae and the balloon is your disc. If you put pressure through the heels of your hands, the balloon will be forced out through your fingertips. If you press through your fingertips the balloon will be forced back out the opposite way through your heels. This is what is happening when you are sitting with your head in a forward position. You are continually injuring your neck pushing your disc backwards. By reversing this, you allow your neck to heal, reposition the disc, and remove your pain.