Ever notice that you have a wicked headache after working all day or spending some time on your smartphone? Do you just chalk it up to eyestrain and tension? It could be more than that…and a simple combination of massage, some stretching, and a couple of minor adjustments to the way you work could be an easy ticket to your freedom! Sounds great to me — how about you?
Most of us that spend a lot of time on a computer or at a desk are at least passingly familiar with carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s usually associated with the repetitive motions involved with typing and using a mouse; the repetitive actions usually result in pain, numbness or tingling and possibly a loss of strength in the hand, all of which ties to nerve impingement within the wrist. But carpal tunnel is not the only hazard we face in our more computerized lives.
With all of our access to smart devices in various sizes and flavors, we are using our bodies in ways that they aren’t really designed for, at least in the long-term. The result can be significant changes in posture. For example, when you text, are you looking down at your phone? Erik Dalton’s article Text Neck and Desktop Neck has some surprising visuals of the kind of stress we are putting on our bodies when we are texting! The Washington Post also showed how the slightest changes in how we hold our head can significantly increase the strain on our head, neck and shoulders.
For a more physical sense of the changes that happen when we are looking down at our various screens, just imagine holding a bowling ball — it doesn’t have to be a heavy one, a little ten pounder would work. Hold the ball with both hands, close to your body. Got it? Okay, now move the ball out from your body just a bit and hold it there for a bit. Then move it a bit further away. Do this a couple of times and see what you notice. I’m betting the ball feels heavier and takes more effort to hold the further away from your body it gets. Please note, if you want to actually do this little experiment instead of imagining it, you may want to use something smaller like a can of soup and please exercise caution; we don’t want anyone getting hurt!
Now think about all the time you spend texting or doing other things on a smart phone or tablet. On average, U.S. cell phone users send and receive more than 41 messages a day; for adults between 18 and 24, that number skyrockets to over 109. (pewinternet.org) Every time you tilt your head down to read or type a text message, email or social media post, the strain on your body increases. Because our bodies are so efficient (or try to be!), they will start trying to “set” themselves to brace for the increased stress of a head-forward position. That’s where we start getting into trouble. As the body “sets” itself, posture is remapped to what is interpreted as the new “normal”. From there, things just snowball.
So, what’s the ticket to freedom that I mentioned earlier? Try some combination of these things:
Stay hydrated — I know that might sound odd in this context but staying hydrated is one of the first steps to creating an environment conducive to change in your body; it’s almost like oiling a sticky hinge.
Take breaks during the workday — Even if it means setting an alarm or a timer, be sure to take breaks any time you are at the computer or your smartphone/tablet. Your body starts to “set” after about 20 minutes in one position. Moving around is a key to avoiding that “setting” stage.
Stretch throughout the day — there are several really useful stretches; talk to your physician, physical therapist or massage therapist about what might work best for you.
Consider using a dictation app instead of typing — that has the benefit of reducing strain on your hands as well as your neck, shoulders and back.
Strengthen your core — something like sixty percent of the body’s weight is above the waist.
Schedule a massage — for these kinds of issues, Swedish massage to increase circulation and relaxation is beneficial. Deep tissue and myofascial work are also excellent choices as they will help remind the body what “normal” really is. Zero Balancing can also be useful to help “reset”. Be sure to discuss your intent with your massage therapist so you can make the most of your session.
As always, if you have any concerns regarding your health, please be sure to see your physician!
Well, I’m due for some water and stretching myself after all this typing. Have a great couple of weeks and be sure to schedule your massage; let us make you a priority!