It’s always a full body pattern of muscle tension that causes functional muscle pain.
The muscular system and body operates as a whole, not a series of parts. When we move it’s never just one muscle that lifts our arm, brings our leg forward or bends our back; there’s a perfect coordination between agonist and antagonist muscles. If one muscle group contracts, its antagonist lengthens to allow the movement to happen. This is how we move through gravity efficiently and, we hope, with the least possible effort or pain. The brain controls us as a synergistic, constantly recalibrating system, similar to the underlying software of a computer. Update the software and the computer runs more smoothly. So it is with the body.
If, due to overuse, repetitive action or injury and accidents, we change the way that we move, we can develop the condition of sensory motor amnesia (tight, “frozen” muscles that the brain has forgotten how to release). This means that your brain invariably contracts not just the muscles needed to complete the action, but also other groups of muscles that compensate to help us move. This “dance” between muscles stops working and both agonist and antagonist muscles become tightly contracted, it’s as if we are stuck in a vise.
In my last post I wrote about hip pain and how the posture of leaning and slumping into one’s dominant side to reach for and use the computer mouse, can create hip pain. It can also create shoulder and neck pain as one hunches, draws the shoulder forward, collapses through the ribcage and waist and concentrates on the work (and computer screen) at hand.
Try these corrective Somatic Exercises for relief of shoulder and hip pain from “computer-itis”
Here’s a simple protocol for releasing, relaxing and re-training the muscles that become painfully tight from excessive computer work. This is useful for people like me (I’m not a big fan of computers, so I tend to bring a certain level of tension to my computer work), graphic artists, graphics, film or music editors, data input workers and those whose work is simply repetitive.
Side Bend breathing exercise – here’s a new video for you. This exercise is a full body pandiculation of exactly the muscles that “collapse” and tighten when you slump, jut your head forward to look at your computer screen and reach for your mouse:
Washrag – to open up the front of the body and connect it to the shoulders and hips.
Other wonderful Somatic Exercises that can help to battle “computer-itis” are the steeple twist, flower, neck and neck variations (from Pain-Free Neck and Shoulders).
Martha will come to your office to present an introductory Essential Somatics Move Without Pain workshop, do one-on-one consultations and clinical sessions. Essential Somatics for pain relief saves healthcare dollars and prevents worker injuries from repetitive muscle strain and overuse. For more information email Martha.