Job stress has long been linked to poor emotional health, but now our physical health is also under the spotlight. Not least, as we hunch over computers and mobile devices for hours on end, we are putting enormous strain on our spines. Quite simply, our bodies are not designed to be in that position for long hours each day. In addition, most people do not get up and move around to stretch their muscles and get their circulation going frequently enough.
Our spines are vital and rather amazing parts of our bodies. They support our entire frames and provide strength, protection and movement. Because of its function, the spine is put under a lot of stress every day and it is a frequent site of injury and other problems from normal wear and tear. You don’t have to be an athlete to suffer; just working a desk job can be sufficient cause for back, neck and shoulder problems.
Back pain is something that most people will suffer from at some stage in their lives. Lower back pain originates in the lumbar spine. It is usually either mechanical pain (back strain linked to the movement of the spine) or compressive pain (caused by pressure or irritation on the spinal cord).
Back pain can be caused by injury or disease, but you can also get it from bad posture, by sitting, standing, bending or lifting incorrectly. In most cases, it’s not a serious condition and it will improve in a few weeks.
To prevent common back pain, avoid putting too much pressure on your back. The most important protective measure is to keep your back strong and supple. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to do this. Routines that strengthen and improve flexibility, like Pilates or yoga, are particularly good.
A stiff or painful neck is also a common occurrence, and again it is usually not a serious issue. Just as you can wake up in the morning with a stiff neck if you slept in an awkward position, you can get a sore neck or muscle strain if you are bent over a desk all day. Like your back, your neck is exposed to tension and stress all the time. And, although you may not feel pain at the time of an injury, it can slowly degenerate your cervical spine.
To prevent common neck pain, watch your posture. Learn to sit properly at your desk. Get up and move around regularly, which will also release the rest of your body’s tension. At night, keep your head in line with your body (don’t use too many pillows) and don’t sleep on your front. Also make sure you have a good, firm mattress.
Shoulder problems are also common and develop from everyday use, overuse and injury. The natural process of aging can also cause them. The shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body, making injuries the most common cause of shoulder pain. Good posture and exercising your arms and shoulder muscles will offer some protection against injury. Also avoid overusing your arm in repeated movements.
Article taken from InHealth, Issue 5 2015. Click here to download the publication