In the past few decades, the workforce of the world has been largely transitioning to more sedentary based work with the boom in Tech and automation of many physical jobs. And throw Covid into the mix where people, over the past two years have been asked to work from home where possible.
Almost every day I have a new patient presenting with neck/upper back/shoulder pain, often with no mechanism of injury. The common terms I hear are, “I slept funny on it”, “I get this every few months”. Most patients who have this presentation spend 40+ hours sitting at a computer screen. And now with the Covid pandemic we are seeing people working at the kitchen table on laptops, spending longer hours working as the hours gained by avoiding the commute can be funneled into more productivity.
The common trend we see when someone present with these symptoms… bad posture.
Posture problems and their resulting injuries are different to acute trauma for a simple reason: time. There is no trigger, no event. There is nothing we can look back on and blame. These injuries are low load, and over long durations. With the passing of time (40+ per week, 2000+ per year!!) the force you impart on the structures of the neck/upper back/shoulders slowly wear the tissues down. There may be smaller events along the wat that accelerate the process and the pain may come to a head with a minor trigger like turning the head too quickly. But the tissue has already been preloaded and then the straw breaks the camel’s back!
Muscles must be strong and active to hold us up against the force of gravity. If our muscles in this area of the body are not trained to do this, we start to rely on our internal stability structures (ligaments, discs, cartilage) and over time if these structures are forced to work against gravity they start to deform and create areas of damage. These tissues don’t heal as easily as muscles.
So, we must train muscles to maintain our posture at the desk and keep us upright, rather than loading the internal stability structures. Desk based work isn’t going anywhere.
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