Ever since taking some time off in December, I’ve been finding it difficult to get back into the swing of things. It’s rubbed off a little bit in my work life too. Some good habits I had developed have fallen by the wayside.
For example, I had been very successful with using the StandApp on my phone to remind me to take an hourly five minute break where I’d get up, walk around, do some stretching or exercise. I turned it off though over the holiday and forgot to restart it. The consequences have been painful, literally.
Over the last few days I realized that I was complaining about a pain in my neck/shoulder area on the left side of my body and I really wanted a massage. Then this morning, sitting at my desk, was the wake up call.
I felt the pain quite sharply and readjusting my posture wasn’t helping. So I went back to the basics, pulled up an anatomy chart, and massaged my neck and shoulder to feel around the pain and pinpoint the area of concern: the levator scapulae.
The levator scapulae is a skeletal muscle situated at the back and side of the neck. It’s main action is to lift the scapula, or shoulder blade.
So why is my left scapula elevated while I’m sitting? Ah ha! I’m leaning to the left propping up my upper-body weight with my elbow on the arm rest of my chair! I thought I had good posture. I was totally unaware I was doing this.
Here’s a good explanation from Ergonomics, Inc. where they engineer ergonomic solutions to reduce injury.
“Seemingly innoucous chair arms can cause upper shoulder pain in the levator scapula muscle (top of the shoulder directly between the arm and neck—the muscle everyone likes to have massaged). Improper chair arm use and height forces this pair (left and right sides) to be in tension all day holding up the shoulder, eventually leading to pain. The trouble is that arm rests are frequently perceived as adequate in supporting arms and causing less pain.”
So what’s the solution? I’m restarting my StandApp (which you should try out too, by the way), and performing this simple neck stretch when I take a break every hour. Just doing it once this morning has brought immediate relief.
I’m also being more mindful of my posture. Checking in with my body to make sure that my core is engaged and I’m sitting with my shoulders and hips in vertical alignment. I also lowered the arm rests on my chair so I couldn’t even reach them. This will force me to sit up straight and not slouch over them. It’s already been quite humorous to see how many times I’ve unconsciously moved to rest on my elbow and jerked back up when there was nothing there to support me! Especially because I seem to rest in this position when I’m deep in thought–how convenient.
So tell me, is your job giving you a pain in the neck? Whether you’re sitting behind a desk all day or are constantly on your feet, what are your top complaints? There are safe and effective ways to correct your posture and movement or make modifications to your environment to find relief. Let me know what’s bothering you and I’d be glad to offer some help.
And if you’d like to learn more ways to listen to your body and build healthy habits, get on the list to be the first to know about my Health Reboot 21-Day Email Coaching Program. You’ll get my personal guidance and motivation with tips, tools, and “assignments” everyday for three weeks!