Many of us lead busy lives that include a lot of computer work (both at our place of employment and also at home).
We also spend many hours looking down at our phones and other mobile devices. This overstretches the ligaments in our necks and upper backs. Ligaments are the holding elements that hold our bones and joints together. When ligaments are overstretched for long periods of time (like when we are in one position for too long without taking a break), micro-tearing can occur. This micro-trauma can then create inflammation as well as tightening and weakening of the surrounding muscles and finally a loss of motion in the joints. This is why over time we start to feel tightness, discomfort/pain and lack of motion in our mid-back and neck. Left untreated, this can even lead to a permanent change in the alignment of the spine and cause abnormal flattening of the cervical and thoracic curves. There are several ways to combat repetitive strain.
The first way to reduce repetitive strain injury is to take frequent breaks from being on the computer or mobile device. Even a two minute break every 30 minutes is sufficient enough. It can be as simple as getting a drink of water or taking a bathroom break. Even better would be to simply stand up and just do a few quick neck stretches as you take your small break. One other thing that can be done at work is to make sure that your work station is set up properly so that you are not craning your neck in only one direction or looking too far down while looking at the computer screen.
Another way to reduce repetitive strain injury is to see someone for therapy (such as a chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist). If you are already at the point where you have pain, tightness and discomfort and a lack or motion, the therapist will be able to help the affected areas to heal faster and then provide you with advice on how to stay healthy and out of pain. If you are not yet experiencing symptoms, it might still be valuable to see these professionals for advice and maintenance care in order to prevent injury in the future. At Edgar Family Chiropractic, we treat people with repetitive strain injuries many times daily. First, we work to reduce pain and inflammation, then we loosen up the muscles, we make sure the joints are moving well and then we help to strengthen weak muscles in order to prevent future injury. All of this leads to less discomfort, better posture and more awareness on how to prevent future injury.
One more way to reduce the effects of repetitive strain is to ensure that while we sleep, our muscles, joints and ligaments are getting proper and effective rest. We spend almost half of our life sleeping and it is important that we maintain good alignment in our neck during sleep. Many of us sleep on fluffy, flat pillows that provide very little support for our necks or stack multiple pillows in an effort to create more support. Instead of waking up rested, we are waking up stiff and in pain. There are many options for pillows that provide good support for the neck. Everyone is different in what pillow suits them best but as long as it provides enough support to ensure that the curve in the neck is in neutral position when we are laying down either on our side or back then it doesn’t matter what the pillow looks like or what brand it is. At Edgar Family Chiropractic we carry two different types of pillows that have a great track record of working well for people of different sizes and needs. We provide loaner pillows so that patients can make sure that they are getting the right pillow for them.
Summary: When it comes to repetitive strain, it is something that is hard to avoid but easy to treat and prevent. Frequent breaks at work that include simple stretches, therapy to reduce discomfort, and a good supportive pillow are all ways to reduce your chances of developing a repetitive strain injury.