Contemporary lifestyle habits commonly find us looking down for large portions of the day – whether it be reading the paper, using apps on our phones, writing notes, referring to notes whilst typing, or even falling asleep on the train (even if there is a comfortable shoulder or not-so-comfortable window to lean on). Prolonged periods of looking down (neck flexion) can increase levels of fatigue in the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the neck and shoulders.
There are some simple steps you can take to minimise fatigue and onset of pain/discomfort in your neck and shoulders:
– Warm up your muscles and joints by walking or performing other light exercise to decrease stiffness in our connective tissue. Park the car a little farther from work, or get off the tram or train a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way. Take a walking meeting, or walk around the block at lunch – the fresh air and exercise will clear your head and loosen up your muscles.
– Incorporate stretches into your everyday routine – when you get up to go to the copier, take a phone call or send an email. Perform stretches gently with slow rhythmical breaths to increase muscle relaxation and improve circulation. Try some shrugging your shoulders, rotating your shoulders in circles and tucking your chin in while keeping your head level.
– Take regular microbreaks throughout the day. The length of time need not be long. 3 to 4 minutes of either completing alternative tasks using distinctly different muscles and joints or actively resting will assist prevent cumulative build-up of fatigue in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Further, changes to postures with small and gentle movements assists blood flow and the carrying away of metabolites and other fatigue products from the muscles, while allowing nutrients to be brought in. Sit-to-stand desks can also assist with gentle changes in postures and movements, and more information on these desks can be found here. Remember, we should not be in one posture for prolonged periods.
– Make sure your workstations are set up for you and the tasks you need to perform. In-line document holders are encouraged for work that requires reference to printed material, and laptop risers with an external keyboard and mouse are encouraged prolonged laptop use. If you need help with setting up your workstation, contact us for personalised assessments.
– Drink water regularly to maintain hydration and help lubrication of the cells, elimination of waste from the body and transport nutrients throughout the body. You’ll have more energy if you’re properly hydrated too.
– Limit phone use to small periods throughout the day. It’s easy to lose track of time spent on our phones. If you struggle to put the phone down, delete apps that you spend a lot of time on, or simply leave at the phone at home when you go to the gym or take the dog for a walk. Being more present in the moment and when around others will improve the quality of your life and less screen time will help ease muscle fatigue and pain.
Got some suggestions on how to minimise neck and shoulder fatigue and discomfort? Tweet your best ideas to @DohrmannConsult