Sitting for up to 8 hours per day in front of a computer is a common position that more of us are finding ourselves in as part of a normal working week. The results of this often lead to postural imbalances, repetitive strain and chronic back, neck and shoulder pain. A bent over position, whether it be at a desk or using a laptop and phone is now a common occurrence.
A classic upper cross syndrome posture develops with the shoulders becoming rounded and the head protruding forward. The muscles in the upper neck and shoulder become habitually tight due to constant repetition of the same prolonged position and muscles between the shoulder blades become weak and inhibited. This imbalance leads to muscular dysfunction and chronic pain patterns occur. This situation eventually becomes accepted by the nervous system as normal and any attempt to relax or stretch the areas affected can be experienced as uncomfortable. This is due to the tight musculature pulling on the normal surrounding tissues. This results in the tendency to hold the affected area in a shortened position to avoid any further discomfort.
Trigger points (painful spots) often occur in the overused muscles. Fibres within the muscle can become tightly contracted resulting in a local spasm. This then prevents nourishment to the fibres affected, causing irritation. Some trigger points are active – painful and easily apparent. Others can be latent and will only become noticeable during treatment. Studies have found that trigger points develop after around one hour of constant computer work causing an increase in pain the trapezius muscle. This must also account for the position promoted by the use of other technological equipment. Other studies have found that deep tissue massage therapy often very effective treatment for trigger points.
The symptoms of cervicogenic headaches can often include a restriction in neck movement. Muscles around the neck can develop trigger points that refer pain into the forehead and behind the eyes, contributing to the headache.
“Just had a sports massage for an achy back and can already feel the tension gone. Worth the money!” Charlotte
A deep tissue massage helps to stimulate circulation, aiding growth, repair and nutrition on a cellular level. Large areas of compacted tissue, the ‘knot’, can be loosened to allow the blood to flow through. Trigger points can be dealt with effectively and the general massage strokes applied can help to stretch and realign the muscle fibres, providing a greater range of movement following treatment.
But what can be done other than massage? A regular stretching regime is a must especially for the neck and chest muscles. Strength training is also recommended where possible, concentrating on the muscles that sit between the shoulder blades. Ergonomic checks of the working position and environment should be available for workers in all industries. A desk assessment is often the best way to achieve a comfortable working environment. Ensure that regular breaks are taken to avoid prolonged periods of sitting. Also attempt to reduce the time spent on computers, laptops and phones during the evenings and weekends.
Prevention is better than cure. With the aid of regular maintenance in the form of deep tissue massage and self help stretching and strength techniques, the pain caused by occupational stress can be easily eliminated.