Look at the angle of the neck, the slump of the chest, and the rounded shoulders. Sit like that long enough and you develop neck, shoulder and back pain. You might even find it difficult to take a full breath.
It’s rare to meet someone nowadays who doesn’t spend significant amounts of time on the computer.
Even senior citizens are now reconnecting with old friends, not to mention staying in touch with grandchildren, via Facebook and email. Younger and younger children are beginning to use computers both in school and at home in place of outdoor play. They, too, are learning to slump and tighten their muscles as they become absorbed in their video games or personal electronic devices. Hundreds of millions of people work at computer terminals, often for hours at a stretch without getting up.
Anything movement you do or posture you hold repeatedly becomes a habit.
If you have to sit for hours, with elbows bent, wrists immobile and fingers typing rapidly, the brain will teach the muscles to be ready to sit and type again, in just the same manner, the next day. The wrists will be tight, the biceps tighter than usual to hold the arms steady and the neck will hold your head right where it needs to be in order to read what’s on the screen. Eventually this learned posture can lead to muscular pain, TMJ, carpal tunnel syndrome, back, neck and shoulder problems.
Children have the same potential as adults to become stuck in an habituated, slumped posture – one that tightens the chest, restricts breathing, overuses the back, neck and shoulder muscles, and can eventually lead to postural dysfunction and muscular pain. Encouraging children to spend time outdoors moving – running, riding bikes, jumping, playing – will go a long way in keeping a child aware of his body (instead of the computer screen) and healthier in the long run.
Here are a few helpful Somatic Exercises you can do at your desk every hour. They will teach you to release, relax, and lengthen your muscles – and eliminate neck and shoulder pain – while increasing body awareness.
Try them and let me know how it goes. This really helps me when I have to spend time at the computer:
Slowly tighten your left shoulder up toward the ear, as you slowly tighten your neck back toward the left shoulder blade.
You’ll feel a contraction at the top of the shoulder and on the left side of the neck.
Slowly lengthen out of the contraction, and allow the neck to lengthen as the chin points to the right chest. The shoulder relaxes back to neutral.
Repeat 3 times, then do the same sequence on the other side.
Remember to move slowly for greater awareness in retraining your muscles to relax.
You’re “teasing out” the muscle tightness, not by stretching, but by pandiculating – tightening first, then lengthening, much like a yawn. This movement should help you become more aware of the habit of hunching the shoulders. Once you’re aware of a habit, it’s more easily reversible.