By Christine Nguyen (Physiotherapist and Clinical Pilates Instructor)
With the end of semester upon us, students are finding themselves head down, buried in assignments and exam preparation.
Study related neck pain is one of the most common complaints we see at QV Physiotherapy. Do you ever experience pain and/or tightness around your neck and across the tops of your shoulders? This can often be accompanied with headaches that wrap around your head or behind your eye. You may also feel pain in your arms and lower back. It can come and go, or build up to the point where it starts to interfere with your concentration and your sleep.
In an upright position, your head weighs approximately 5kg, which translates to that weight being distributed through the joints in your upper neck. When you look down at 45 degrees, the gravitational forces combined with the weight of your head means the force going through your neck increases to 22kg! That’s equivalent to a 7 year old sitting on your head and shoulders. Now imagine that 7 year old sitting there every time you look down at your phone, laptop or desktop – it’s no wonder our necks get sore.
Here are a few tips to help reduce your neck pain and improve your overall well being during this busy and stressful period:
- 1. Ergonomic set up. Make sure your computer is set at your eye height to minimize looking down or hunching your shoulders. Your chair and desk should allow your arms to be at about 90-100 degrees flexion. If you’re using a laptop, prop it up on some books and get yourself a wireless keyboard so that your elbows can remain by your side
- 2. Postural set up. In an ideal world, you’ll be sitting up tall, have your chin tucked in, and have your shoulder blades down and back. It isn’t possible to maintain this perfect position all day long, so instead try and vary your positioning every 15-20 minutes. It is the act of movement that will help the most, rather than a ‘perfect posture’
- 3. Take regular breaks. Set an alarm and get up hourly to encourage blood circulation around your muscles, keeping them flexible. Moving also increase alertness as it sends fresh oxygen to your brain
- 4. Strengthen your postural muscles. Strengthening is just as important as stretching, as stronger muscles allow your body to tolerate more load. We can teach you a set of very simple exercises that will make a huge difference
- 5. EXERCISE! Regular exercise can help your concentration, memory retention and lower stress levels
- 6. Do shoulder rolls and simple neck stretches every 30 minutes so your muscles don’t get the chance to seize up:
We hope this helps you prevent, reduce and manage your neck pain. If you would like more information on how we can help, our physiotherapists are happy to answer any questions you may have. In addition to the tips listed above, physiotherapy manual therapy techniques such as massage, joint mobilisation and dry needling can be effective in managing your tight and sore muscles.
Choi JH, Jung MH, Yoo KT. An analysis of the activity and muscle fatigue of the muscles around the neck under the most frequent postures when using a smart phone. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2016; 28:1660-1664.