Desk & Computer Worker
In today’s society, the majority of jobs and careers are sitting related. Whether seated at a desk or computer, the strain placed on the body can be equal to or greater than manual labor jobs. The human body was meant for movement, and sitting for prolonged periods of time places repetitive strain on certain aspects of the body. If you think you are suffering from a sitting related pain or injury, please read through this section to understand the possible causes.
Are we De-evolving?
The reality of sitting related jobs, is that over a long period of time, the human body becomes de-conditioned. “De-conditioned Syndrome” is a by-product of a sedentary lifestyle combine with a job that requires minimal physical activity. When our lifestyle or job lacks physical activity, our postural muscles become over-used (tight) and our prime movers become under-used (weak). Overtime this causes significant muscular imbalances, joint restrictions and repetitive strain on certain structures. The actual sitting becomes over-use and then feeds into the Repetitive Injury Cycle.
Common Computer/Desk related pain treated
- Neck Pain
- Carpel Tunnel
- Shoulder Pain
- Dequervain’s Tendonitis
- Low back pain
- Mid-back pain
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Two common syndromes we see amongst desk/computer workers are Anterior Head Carriage and Upper Crossed Syndrome. Anterior Head Carriage, also known as forward head carriage, is a postural fault or tendency the body exhibits because of Upper Cross Syndrome. Simply put, it’s when the head is held in a much more forward position than it is supposed to be.
How to Self-Evaluate for Anterior Head Carriage
The easiest way to tell if someone has anterior head carriage is to have them stand normally while you look at them from the side. Draw an imaginary line from the top of their head down through the middle point of their ankles. If the person has a proper standing posture, the line should go through the middle of their ear and the middle of their shoulder. If their ear is in front of their shoulder, they have anterior head carriage. You will realize that given the normal American lifestyle of sitting in front of computers, that many people have anterior head carriage In no way is this a diagnosis and any symptoms related to this should be evaluated by a Doctor .
Problems with Anterior Head Carriage
Because it is an abnormal body position, anterior head carriage can bring several ailments to the individual including headaches, tight muscles, muscles aches, and decreased range of motion to name a few. All of these symptoms also come with upper cross syndrome. Aside from poor posture, anterior carriage can also be caused by joint restrictions in the neck and mid back. If joint restrictions or altered spinal curves exist, flexing the neck forward decreases pressure placed on the posterior joints (facet joints) which could be an unconscious attempt for the body to alleviate symptoms or pain. The increased flexion only causes more work on the muscles in the back of the neck, increasing the symptoms associated with anterior head carriage.
Upper crossed syndrome, also known as “student syndrome” or “corporate syndrome”, is a pattern of tight and weak muscles the body develops based on one’s postural tendencies. The most common trait for someone with upper crossed syndrome is tight upper traps (a muscle in between the edge of your shoulder and your neck) and sometimes right at the posterior base of your skull. This is a very common occurrence in today’s population. The people this affects the most are those that sit all day, usually in front of a computer or at a desk. Due to poor ergonomics, most people in these situations either find themselves leaning over a desk to read, or hunched at a computer typing all day. In order to maintain this unnatural position, the body has to continually contract certain muscles. If you think about a muscle’s length when it is (concentrically) contracting, it gets shorter. If you hold that contracted position for long enough, the muscle will actually remain shorter, resulting in tight muscles. The body also compensates in such a way that the tight muscle will cause the opposing muscle group to become lengthened and subsequently weakened. This phenomenon is called reciprocal inhibition. For example, to kick a ball your quads have to extend your knee/lower leg. In turn, your hamstrings have to lengthen or relax to allow that movement. When muscles are constantly contracting, even at low levels, the body reciprocally inhibits the opposing muscles. With the continual stretching and overall lack of use, the muscles opposite to the ones doing all of the work will eventually stretch out and weaken. In the upper crossed syndrome, the chronically tight chest and anterior shoulders caused from being hunched over will cause the mid-back to become weak. This poor posture will most likely cause anterior head carriage that will put excessive stress on the upper neck muscles. The tight upper (deep) neck muscles will cause weakness in the deep neck flexors (front of neck) leading to further anterior head carriage. This vicious cycle will continue until the repetitive strain leads to pain unless the cycle is treated or stopped.
The muscles most likely to be tight with upper crossed include:
Upper Trapezius/Levator Scapulae
Deep neck extensors
The muscles that tend to be weak or lengthened include:
Deep neck flexors