CWellbeing Massage Yoga Meditation

Your daily posture. Part II. The upper body

Following on from the previous article about how our lower bodies are affected by sitting we move on to the upper body. Common upper body ailments associated with prolonged hours in a seated posture or similar are; tension headaches, soreness between shoulder-blades and base of neck, stiffness in shoulders and neck, numbness and tingling in hands (thoracic outlet syndrome).

Postural changes mean that the shoulders are drawn up (anxiety/stress/tension), the head forward (focusing the eyes when tired or low screen/high seat) and arms forward (its pretty hard to type or drive with your arms behind you). Some of us will become round shouldered perhaps a bit of a stoop, not sure if this is a problem for you, well it may not be but just take a moment next time you drive in the rain to notice if your head is poking forwards. Most companies these days are very good with adjusting your work-space for you but is your car or home office so well set up? Do you drop your head rather than raise your arm when checking your phone? Do you use a laptop to work at home on?

Possible changes to make; set up your home office as well as possible, if using a laptop try using a separate keyboard so the monitor/screen is at eye height and the keyboard at elbow height, take regular breaks (even if its just to look away from your work or stand), use a post it note on the screen "tuck your chin in" "drop your shoulders", work some stretches into your routine.

A forward head posture shortens the Sternocleidomastoid muscles and requires the cervical extensors to work hard in a long position.

Trigger points in the SCM can cause a feeling of pressure behind the eyes and watering, shortness in this muscle causes compression at the base of the skull frequently associated with causing headaches which feel like a tight band around the head or vice-like.

The cervical extensors at the back of the neck are trying to prevent the head from going any further forward. Imagine going to lift a heavy object or carrying one with your arms straight. All this hard work means that the body begins to lay down connective tissue to take the pressure off the muscle fibres, though connective tissue does not have the elasticity of muscle tissue and therefore can become quite rigid.

A similar pattern occurs with the chest and upper back.

Pectoralis major sits in a short position for large amounts of time due to the arms being in front, the muscle contracts, fibres become misaligned, fuzzing occurs in the fascia etc (similar to the hamstrings). As the arms are in front the shoulder blades are drawn out and forward the muscles between the spine and shoulder blade are pulled tight and find it difficult to shorten, this often occurs simultaneously with flexion of the thoracic spine weakening these muscles further. Hence this area fatigues quickly and can develop trigger points which further exacerbate the problem.

Possible Stretches

As with all exercises please stop if pain is felt, if you are already experiencing pain in the area check with a health professional before attempting. Stretches can be held for 10-30 seconds to access the muscle, are best done when warm and frequently throughout the day. Longer static stretches to affect the connective tissue (fascia) are best done at the start or end of day and held for 3-5minutes.

Use doorways to open the chest and stretch the pectorals.

Y - W, bend your knees with your back either against a wall or floor, try to make a Y the W shape with the arms, I suggest using the floor option to begin. Having the knees bent stops the lumbar from arching, rest in this position at the end of a long day.

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Supta Baddha Konasana or Counter Computer Posture

A lovely way to spend 5 minutes after a long day. Be sure to tuck the tail bone under so the lumbar isn't arched.

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Gomukasana or Cow Face arms, also Apleys scratch test
Downward dog using the wall

I hope you enjoyed this article please keep an eye on my facebook page for more inspiration.

Catherine

Credits:

Created with images by honeybunched - "texting" • garryknight - "Toshiba Laptop" • Boemski - "Great chest, shoulders and back stretch" • bwanderd - "30 Shoulder Stretch"

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