Tag : pt

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6 Easy Stretching Exercises you can do during Long days of Sitting

You had a long day at work. 4-6 hours sitting in front of your desktop or laptop revising drafts, preparing your monthly reports and answering emails and phone calls. The sensation of stiffness and discomfort begins to arise on your upper neck and shoulders, limitation of motion occurs and your energy levels throughout the day begins to drop — with more work to be done the next day. These are common scenarios when the tissues of your upper back and shoulder begin to loose their grip causing intense discomfort and stiffness. Prolonged symptoms may lead to Cervicogenic headache and permanent postural abnormalities.

One of the functions of your shoulder and neck muscles specifically your Trapezius, Erector Spinae and Cervical muscles is to maintain the upright alignment of your spine during sitting and standing activities. Even though you were taught proper posture in sitting or have been through some postural correction programs, it is still possible to feel the discomforts of prolonged sitting. In a PT’s perspective this is NORMAL! This is due to the overuse of your postural muscles to maintain that awesome posture you are in. In a study conducted by Kristina Schouldt, improper sitting work postures like Slouched or slump sitting exhibited higher shoulder and neck muscle activity compared to people who observe proper posture.  A study on low back pain conducted by Christie J Heather a Physical therapist — postural aberration in sitting tend to affect the upper back muscular more compared to the lower back, thus it is important to observe proper maintenance on these muscles in order to maintain your efficiency at work.

What is important is to make sure these muscles are mobilized and stretched periodically. A good habit (which I always do when working on my blog or preparing for next week’s lesson plan) is to perform 5 min stretching breaks for every 30 mins of desk work.

Below are simple neck and shoulder stretching exercise you can do in 5 minutes or less! These exercises were sourced from Grandmaster Ted Gambordella’s  The Ultimate Stretching Manual: 175 Stretches for every body part. You can find this book at Amazon and Google books

When performing the exericse be sure to hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds and BREATHE NORMALLY to achieve optimal effects! These stretches must be performed passively ,meaning there must be no contractions from the muscle you want to stretch, all movements must be done self-assistively (EXCEPT for number 4 and 5)

1. Neck Rotations


Grandmaster Ted Gambordella’s  The Ultimate Stretching Manual CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 19, 2008) Page 180

Place your fist or the palm of your hand on mandible or side chin the gently push your head to the opposite side. Do these in both sides

2. Neck Flexion


Grandmaster Ted Gambordella’s  The Ultimate Stretching Manual CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 19, 2008) Page 181

Place both hands at the back of your head and gently pull down to end range. Be sure that your upper back does not go along with the stretch force

3. Neck Extension

Using a semi-clenched fist placed on both sides of your chin, gently push your head backward until end range. Be sure to keep your back from going along with the stretch. Keep it straight and steady.

4. Upper Trapezius Stretching


Grandmaster Ted Gambordella’s  The Ultimate Stretching Manual CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 19, 2008) Page 192

Hold a steady surface using your hand on the side to be stretched and bend your head to the opposite side to stretch the Trapezius muscle. The stretch can be intensified by pulling your head more to the opposite side but still following the same motions. This particular muscle is responsible for almost 70% of patient coming to me for PT services. It is important to keep this muscle in healthy form throughout at day!

5. Pectoral Stretch


Grandmaster Ted Gambordella’s  The Ultimate Stretching Manual CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 19, 2008) Page 187

One of my favorite stretches– not only does it helps keep your upper body from falling into faulty postures but also gives you a sudden feeling of relaxation after long hours of working on your desk!

Place both hands at the back of your head, slowly bring your elbow back behind your ears. The stretch force must be felt at your Pectoralis Major muscle or chest muscle

6. Triceps and Latissimus Dorsi Stretch


Grandmaster Ted Gambordella’s  The Ultimate Stretching Manual CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 19, 2008) Page 14

Raise the arm you want to stretch while fully bending the elbow — with your other arm reach for the elbow and slightly pull to the opposite side. This stretch targets your Latissimus Dorsi ( a muscle on your mid back) and triceps muscle.

Thank you for you time and support! I hope these professional tips will help protect you body during long days of desk work.

REFERENCES
GAMBORDELLA, T. (2004) The Ultimate Stretching Manual: 175 Stretches for every Body Part CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

KRISTINA SCHÜLDT, JAN EKHOLM, KARIN HARMS-RINGDAHL, GUNNAR NÉMETH & ULF P. ARBORELIUS(1986) Effects of changes in sitting work posture on static neck and shoulder muscle activity, Ergonomics,29:12, 1525-1537, DOI: 10.1080/00140138608967266

CHRISTIE, HEATHER J .et al. Postural aberrations in low back pain.  Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation , Volume 76 , Issue 3 , 218 – 224 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0003-9993(95)80604-0

GAMBORDELLA, T. (2004) The Ultimate Stretching Manual: 175 Stretches for every Body Part CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

KRISTINA SCHÜLDT, JAN EKHOLM, KARIN HARMS-RINGDAHL, GUNNAR NÉMETH & ULF P. ARBORELIUS(1986) Effects of changes in sitting work posture on static neck and shoulder muscle activity, Ergonomics,29:12, 1525-1537, DOI: 10.1080/00140138608967266

CHRISTIE, HEATHER J .et al. Postural aberrations in low back pain.  Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation , Volume 76 , Issue 3 , 218 – 224 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0003-9993(95)80604-0

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Bad Sleeping Postures: A source of your Back Problems

Principles of Good Posture
To achieve optimal and pain-free function, body needs to have a balance between flexibility, strength, mobility, relaxation, an uncluttered mind and conscious movement. With all our responsibilities, family, jobs and stress, this natural equilibrium is mostly lost. During our early life, we enjoy a wide range of motion in our joints. We can walk on such uneven surfaces as rocks and mud. And we can sit almost anywhere, on the floor or on a rock. We can float or swim, run, jump, climb, roll, bend down, stretch up, reach sideways and backwards.

Unfortunately, after years of continuous walking and sitting in chairs in poor positions, we are wearing out rapidly. Our lives are geared to mechanical devices that do most activities for us. Then, we go to the gym and exercise by pulling and pushing our arms and legs against an unyielding resistance. We rarely extend our range of movement by using our limbs freely.


Human adaptability has allowed us to adjust to compromised body movement and function. If you allow your bodily health to wear down, you will find that you wind up falling as you get older. Older adults are hospitalized five times more for fall-related injuries than any other group.

Improper Bed Postures
Even in resting positions such us lying on your back or stomach, the body needs to maintain its natural equilibrium. A poor bed surface or sleeping position can give rise to discomfort which may last for more than a day.

Lying on your stomach is generally not advisable even though external supports such as pillows are used. This is due to the duration in which your body needs to assume throughout the night


Refer to the picture below of the front sleeper whose lower back is excessively arched and whose neck is strained as it rotates to one side in order to breathe normally. The position is not restful or recuperative because it compresses certain joints too much.

In this picture below take notice of the effects of low quality mattresses can do to your spine. You will notice excessive curvature in the neck and low back areas even on the sidelying position

Aside from mattresses (which I will discuss on future posts), pillows may also be a potential source for neck aches/stiff necks early in the morning. Always be sure that you are not stacking or lacking pillows at bed time. Be sure that your head is aligned with the rest of your body when lying down at your back or at your side.

Pro Tips in Achieving Good Sleeping Postures
A good sleeping position should keep your spine and joints correctly aligned as in the diagram below. This will help you rest comfortably and allow your musculoskeletal system to restore itself overnight.


Even with just changing your old mattresses may help relieve some of the discomfort you might be experiencing and achieve big differences on how you feel in the morning.

Proper Side lying Position

  1. When lying on your side, take the hand that rests closest to the bed and place it under your neck. Feel for any upward or downward tilt on the pillow. There should be no space or lack of support from the pillow at this junction. A good position allows your neck to lie in a straight line from the rest of your spine.
  2. The shoulder resting on the bed should not be pulled up towards your ear. If it is, slide it slightly downwards. You may need two pillows above your shoulder or one thicker one for proper support.
  3. A rolled-up towel under the top pillow can be helpful to support your neck.
  4. Let your cheek rest on the pillow, facing straight ahead.
  5. Lie with both knees bent and a pillow between them. You can place a pillow in front of you, so your top arm can rest on it and also prevent you from twisting your torso

Proper Supine Lying Position

  1. When lying on your stomach, place a pillow or two under the head to maintain a neutral head position
  2. To prevent your head from rolling to one side at night, place a rolled towel under each side of the pillow to form a trough for the neck
  3. Place a small pillow or rolled towel beneath both knees to maintain proper position of the lumbar spine

Each body is different. Use the amount of pillows you may need to keep you aligned, supported and comfortable.

Your neck and back should feel at ease in the morning if you have followed these instructions. You might notice that there’s no instructions for lying on your stomach– as a PT I advise against it due to the stress it’s giving to your mid and lower back for 6-8 hours straight. For those who insist on lying on their stomach, you may place a small pillow on your lower abdomen to maintain some natural curve on your spine. Study the lines of your neck and back and notice whether they are kinked or unsupported. The aim is to waken in the morning comfortable and refreshed.


I hope these tips would help improve your quality of sleep. Check out my article on Easy stretching exercises for your neck area.
Thank your time and support!

REFERENCES:
1. Rosalind Ferry. The Posture Pain Fix: How to fix your back, neck, and other Postural problems that cause pain in your body. 2013
2. Fejer R, Kyvik KO, Hartvigsen J. The prevalence of neck pain in the world population: A systematic critical review of the literature. Eur Spine J. 2006;15(6):834–48.