As any LMT will tell you, the most requested area to massage is the neck and shoulders. Without a doubt you feel tension or pain there too. Because this is by far the most requested area to receive work I thought it would be helpful to address this issue with a series on neck and shoulder issues, discussing posture and ergonomics, and what we can do to help alleviate some of it. Let’s start out this series by discussing posture.
Posture is defined as “the position of the limbs or the carriage of the body as a whole.” (www.dictionary.com) Basically, it is how we hold ourselves, either standing or seated. If we do not have proper posture our body will tighten or over stretch muscles in order to compensate for pressure being placed on the spine or other joints. Take a look at the picture below. This picture uses a grid chart to measure a persons posture. This person has pretty good posture but notice when she is facing you, her torso leans to her right just a little. Whether facing or turned, your midline should meet where the red line lies on this chart. It is also important to notice whether your hips, shoulders and head are tilted or raised in comparison with the other side of your body. For example, if you have uneven shoulders it can indicate where muscles are excessively contracting and causing strain or tension. Now let’s take a look at another picture that can describe you and some of the neck and shoulder tension and pain that most people feel.
The image above is a typical example of what happens in most person’s posture. Most of us work with our arms in front of us (typing, driving, talking on the phone, etc.). And, Whitney Lowe in Orthopedic Assessment in Massage Therapy says, “Forward head posture results from poor postural habits, such as leaning forward toward a computer screen for long periods.” (186) And honestly who isn’t on a computer these days?! ALL of us are susceptible and prone to developing a forward head posture and shoulders that round forward. That means that your pecs and back of you neck take the brunt of the tension and force while your upper back and front side of your neck become over stretched and weakened. This means tension, pain and knots for you! But don’t worry. There are some things you can do to help. For example:
- Raise your computer monitor so it is directly at eye level. If you use a laptop lift you laptop up off of the surface of the desk.
- Make sure when you’re sitting that your joints are working at 90 degree angles. I.e. – elbows rested at 90, back against your chair and lumbar supported at 90, knees at 90, your chin level and parallell to the ground at 90.
- Get up and walk around at least every 2 hours and stretch your pecs, arms and neck
- If you have chronic neck tension use MOIST heat. You can find out how by clicking here.
- Strengthen your core and back! This way you will be fighting that upper cross syndrome and giving yourself a better central place for your body to support itself.