Previously, we discussed the concept of ‘lower body atrophy syndrome’ within office environments and how that can lead to bad posture and poor movement quality in the hips and lower half of the body. This article looks at the other half of the ‘trunk’ and the growing trend of stiff upper backs and necks that stem from poor habits borne in office environments.
“Inactivity is another culprit for stiffness… move it or lose it”
The modern age sees more and more people sitting at desks for prolonged periods and the tri-factor of 1) typing 2) mouse moving and 3) phone answering, is a recipe for tight upper backs and stiff necks. It is common knowledge that muscles become tight from overuse but the lesser known culprit for tightness is inactivity and underuse — thus weakness.
I often get new clients coming in with no history of injuries, and baffled by the pain in their upper back and stiff neck. In these instances, the usual answers ensues: office job — yes; long hours at desk — yes; lots of typing — yes. What people don’t seem to realise is pain patterns can be attributed not only from injury but from weakness, which stems from atrophy.
Next time when you are at your desk, take a step back to reflect on whether your upper back has moved effectively in the past hour/s. Or whether it has mainly been your arms and fingers manoeuvring and negotiating over your desktop. You can see from the image of the trapezius muscle (below) how the upper back stretches up through to the neck and skull. Of course there are several layers of deeper muscles we can talk about, but this is the main culprit for causing upper back pain and stiff necks when underused.
As the old addage goes “move it or lose it” — and the moral of the story remains the same.
- Observe good posture and check the ergonomics of your desk and chair and see if it is best fitted to suit your dimensions
- Take breaks to mobilise your shoulders and upper back
- Incorporate some incidental stretches during your workday
These articles are not to say that you should pack up your desk and find a career that doesn’t entail sitting in an office environment — but to encourage you to find balance in your workday or maybe even worklife. Prioritise your Well Being (Mind & Body) to the top of the list and look to better movement for the future.