What happens to your posture after sitting down at your computer workstation, using your laptop, or working at your desk for 30 minutes or longer? How many of you when using your smartphone or cellphone, have your head down? If you do, reduce your time spent daily in this awkward posture habit today, and walk with your head up!
The head up posture quickly reduces and reverses the compression of nerves and blood vessels from the muscles between the neck and shoulders and works to reduce daily stiffness and pain in your upper back, neck, and shoulders.
Awkward posture habits at work and home are the leading causes of headaches, neck stiffness and pain (text neck), carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain and tendonitis of the shoulders, elbows, wrists and thumbs. This month, I encourage you to take back control of your musculoskeletal health and improve your daily vitality at work, home and play.
The forward head and slouched sitting posture is the most common and damaging of all awkward posture habits. This awkward posture can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) or injuries such as headaches, back or neck pain, shoulder tendonitis, rotator cuff strains or tears, wrist tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and more.
The great news is that you have the power to reverse and correct the forward head posture (FHP) and slouched sitting or standing posture habits, but it takes daily awareness and some work by you. The payoff for your musculoskeletal health and vitality will be huge!
FHP is a round shoulders posture habit. This places the ligaments of the upper back on a sustained stretch, creating mechanical and nutritional stress leading to pain and swelling. FHP also reduces the normal curves of the neck and lower back leading to increased time spent in a forward head posture and flat back posture of the lower back, which both increase risks for stiffness, pain or MSD injury overtime.
The FHP places the neck muscles on the sides of your neck and shoulders to face an excessive workload and posture demands. Leading to compression of the nerves and blood vessels between the neck and shoulders, it greatly increases the risk of MSD problems overtime. This is called “thoracic outlet compression”, and is a leading risk factor for tendonitis of the elbow, wrist, hand and thumbs, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
How many of you walk with your head down? If you do, change this habit today and keep your head up!
This head up posture quickly reduces and reverses the compression of nerves and blood vessels from the muscles between the neck and shoulders, as detailed above, and restores a lordosis or “inward curve” in your neck and lower back reducing stiffness and pain risks too.
I have discovered a powerful recipe of WorkSmart posture habits and ergonomic principles, combined with musculoskeletal self-care techniques, manual therapy treatments, and lifestyle factors that will reverse and treat carpal tunnel syndrome, text neck, and tendonitis complaints, many times without surgery.
Transform your musculoskeletal well-being following these recommendations;
- When using your smartphone or tablet, hold the phone or tablet out in front of you at approximately mid-chest height, versus holding your phone or tablet at waist level too close to the body.
- Improve your computer workstation setup by making sure your monitor is at the correct height (approximately eye level for most people without bifocals or trifocals). If you use a laptop, set your computer on a three-inch three ring binder to raise the monitor height and reduce FHP risks.
- If you use a laptop more than three to four hours daily, I recommend purchasing a laptop stand and external keyboard and mouse to improve ergonomic setup, and reduce awkward posture risk factors.
- Use a document holder to prop any paperwork you are using upright instead of lying flat on your desk.
- Avoid resting your wrist over the sharp edge of your desk when working on your laptop or computer. This awkward posture compresses the median nerve and greatly increases wrist tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors.
- When operating your mouse, use your whole hand and not just your fingertips to pinch and operate your mouse. This greatly reduces the MSD risks to your elbow, wrist and thumb.
- Perform WorkSmart dynamic stretching one to three times per day to reduce stiffness and pain, improve your energy level, reduce stress and muscle tension, and improve your quality of life.
- Perform the snakebite technique two to three times each week up to daily, until your symptoms of tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome resolve.
- Perform ice massage one to three times daily for two to four minutes until numb over the inflamed and painful tendons or nerves.
- Drink at least 40 ounces of water daily, working towards half your body weight in ounces.
- Perform strength or circuit training two or three times each week.
I highly recommend that you perform five important stretches from the St. Luke’s WorkSmart Stretching Plan at least two to three times per day or up to every hour as needed. These stretches include: reach for the sky, neck stretches (3 positions), chin tuck, and the wrist and elbow stretches with rotation.
A median nerve stretch (the carpal tunnel nerve) should also be performed two to three times per day or more as needed. Just the reverse of the wrist stretch, this stretch calls for putting your palm down instead of palm up and gently pulling back your fingers towards your head. Pull straight back, holding only one to two seconds and repeat up to four times. Then do two to four reps of this median nerve stretch with fingers turned in across front of your body and with fingers turned out away from your body at shoulder level.
Research has shown the median nerve stretch to reverse 50% to 60% of carpal tunnel like symptoms of numbness and tingling to the first four fingers, improve your grip strength and reduce your occasional sharp and stabbing pains.
Are you sitting or standing up taller now? Improving your daily posture habits and following these WorkSmart ergonomic principles and lifestyle habits will allow you to improve your musculoskeletal health and well-being of the only body you were blessed with for life!