Do you hold stress in your shoulders? Silly question, right? Who doesn’t!
If you’ve got a particularly hectic or demanding lifestyle, you may even have noticed that your shoulders seem to be rising in height an inch or so with every passing year. Apart from (I’m guessing!) not wanting a neck that a wrestler would envy, you’re probably well and truly over the neck pain or headaches.
The neck and shoulder region is a common area for people to show stress – we tend to respond to mental or emotional demand by overworking the muscles of the face and jaw, and this in turn causes us to tense the neck and shoulder muscles.
Try taking a look in the mirror next time you’re on deadline – if you’re really up there in the stress-out stakes, you may even boast a vein or two! Pretty, right? Pretty painful, that is! Not to mention fairly unattractive.
While much of our emotional or mental stress shows up in the neck, shoulders and head, we can also experience a great deal of discomfort in the lower back. This is commonly caused by physical stress – the stress of poor posture and weakened core muscles.
If you’re unlucky enough to suffer in both areas, you probably spend much of your day shifting from one uncomfortable position to the next, administering a quick and fairly useless self-massage here and there, and promising yourself at some point you’ll book in for a real one. Don’t let these symptoms persist! They’ll only lead to frequent headaches or migraines, deterioration of the core muscles, a pouchy (if that’s a word!) tummy, mental fogginess, degeneration of the spinal column and fatigue.
Not to mention the general grumpiness that comes from constantly carrying around aches and pains!
Instead of hoping those nasty niggles will magically disappear over time (not to be the voice of gloom, but they won’t. They’ll get worse.), why not try a few simple and fast solutions?
Here’s the quick guide:
Thighs should be parallel to the floor, feet flat – use a step for your feet if needed. Your chair should be front on to your computer (or whatever you look at most of the day), and should be ergonomically suited to the natural curvature of your spine. It should have a swivel function so that you can turn to face the phone or paperwork. Your monitor should be bright enough to read easily, with a readable sized font. Notes to read or type from should sit on a stand that you can view without contorting your eyes or your spine. If your set-up is clearly far from ideal, speak to your boss today! Nowadays there is no excuse for workplaces not to provide an ergonomically suitable work area, and most employers will be open to implementing tasks that enhance your well-being, and therefore your productivity.
How do you hold yourself when working hard or caught up in a task? Start to pay attention to the way you sit and stand. Pitfalls to stay clear of include your head jutting forward, shoulders rounding, lower back over-arching, chest collapsing, middle back rounding, and stomach muscles sagging. Take a moment to visualize how all that would look on a person – on you. Not a pretty picture, but if you don’t actively choose not to be that person, it’s more than likely where you’ll end up.
Regular exercise, including weights, cardio and stretching or yoga, will help you build improved core and postural strength, and assist in taking some of the load off your neck and shoulders.
TAKE A BREAK!
No matter how ideal your desk set-up, if you sit there all day and barely even get up for lunch, you will never get rid of those aches and pains!
Ensure you move away from your desk as often as is reasonable. Why not visit a colleague occasionally instead of emailing them? Or take a few extra minutes to go out of the office and get a coffee, rather than walking only a few steps to the kitchen. Take a lunch break! Even if it’s only 20 minutes. I know you’ve heard it all before, but it’s true that a short break will enhance your productivity afterwards.
Finally, don’t hold off that massage any longer. If you’re working long hours and spend most of the day sitting down, it’s hardly an indulgence. I’d consider a monthly massage an investment in the health of your spine, not to mention a necessary time-out. Massage centres abound throughout any office-based area these days, so you’ve really no excuse!