Every day we are constantly looking down at our phones and tablets and busy on email, chat, Facebook, social media, etc. Look around you as you are walking to work or catching public transport to work. How many people are on their phones? Most of them. Constantly being in this position eventually translates to having many people having a forward neck posture, the effect of which stretches and lengthens the back neck and upper back muscles and shortens the front neck and chest muscles.
In addition, in the corporate world, we are always looking at a computer screen and being hit with deadlines and general work pressures that cause us stress an anxiety. Have you ever noticed that those who are stressed tend to breathe from their chest rather than from their diaphragm? Shortened front neck muscles can also be linked to shallow breathing. Those who are stressed tend to hold a lot of tension in their neck and upper back as well.
So what can you do about it?
SS – Stretch and strengthen
Kristian Berg, author of Prescriptive Stretching, outlines a nice stretch you can do with one of your neck muscles – the levator scapulae.
More information about this can be found here.
For those who are up for it, consider doing some yoga. There’s lots of Youtube clips out there with videos on how to help stretch and strengthen the neck, chest and upper back muscles. I’m personally a big fan of Yoga with Tim and have been using his videos for over a year or so in my own yoga practice. Here’s a video he’s done on using a foam roller to help ease tension in these areas – it’s just 9 mins max!
If you’re sitting at the desk and in front of the computer for the majority of the day, make sure that the monitor is at the appropriate height. This usually means ensuring that the top third of the monitor is at the height of your eyes. Using a stand may help.
When you’re looking at your phone, instead of holding it in front of your chest, try to hold it up at eye level.
Remember to get up and move too – go for a nice 5-10 min walk around the block (preferably without looking at your phone). Movement of the muscles helps ease tension and getting out for a breather may help you manage your stress a bit more too.
Obviously massage therapy is great to alleviate the tension in your muscles and over time can assist greatly in correcting your posture. A number of techniques that can be employed include deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy and myofascial release.
A fantastic technique that I like to use on clients is what I call fascial unwinding. I’m a firm believer that your body and mind are the best doctor and healer out there, if only we slow ourselves down enough to listen to what it is telling us! During this process, I allow your body and mind to get out of the fight or flight mode and into the rest and digest mode. Once we’re in this mode (you will usually feel very relaxed), your body will then take over and let us know what way it wants to move to unravel the tension in the muscles. Your neck may start moving in many directions and it is usually painless. At the end of if, you will generally feel a lot more lighter and looser in those neck muscles.
Biodynamic craniosacral therapy is also a great modality to use to ease tension in your muscles and also reduce your stress levels.
If you’re stressed out – breathe!
From a stress perspective,the best piece of advice is to notice when you are stressed out and to breathe deeply. As you inhale, concentrate on moving your belly out (which is actually the correct way of breathing contrary to how a lot of us think) and on the exhale, bring your belly in towards your spine. A couple of big deep breathes can really assist you in stress management. Obviously if you’re still texting like mad or on the computer daily than you’ll still need to do stretches and the like to help ease the tension.