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1st Dec

2016

Beware of Cyber Headaches and Christmas Neck!

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, many of us jump right into preparations for the upcoming Holiday Season. This often entails shopping – these days done to a great extent over the computer or phone, and decorating our homes inside and out. As wonderful as this may all be, it can also come at a price.

I wrote a newsletter in 2014 on the subject of headaches, which you can find on my website. Spending extra time on the computer or phone, in search of that perfect gift or bargain, can put considerable stress on the neck, and result in headaches and neck pain.

This is often because we rush into this merchandise jungle without paying attention to our own physical beings, getting a bit lost in the cyber world. In the fervor of the moment, we may not even notice how sitting hunched over our laptops in bed or on the couch, or tilting our heads down to read the fine print on our phones, puts strain on our joints and muscles in the back of our necks and upper backs.

The opposite neck position, tilted backwards, as when we are looking up, can be equally irritating as joints and discs in our necks get compressed.This easily happens when we hang Christmas lights, or decorate our trees, as we keep this tilted neck position for some time. Over the years, I have seen many people with neck pain caused by such activities (the Air Show is another popular event to cause self-inflicted pain), in particular as we develop some wear and tear in our necks, also referred to as arthritis.

So, what to do? Here are a few simple tips, which only require a little bit of planning and willingness to change our habits:

When you need to do work on the computer, use a properly placed desktop computer, whenever possible. If you prefer to use your laptop computer, place it on a desk in front of you, elevated on a riser or on several books, and attach a separate keyboard to the computer. The phone is a bit more tricky, but you can sit at a table with your elbow supported on the table as you hold the phone at face level. Alternatively, prop the arm up on several pillows. My daughter, who is a dance teacher, puts her leg up on a counter, as she rests her arm on her thigh, however that position would for the majority of us put us at risk of sustaining other potentially serious injuries, so I would not recommend it! The goal here is to keep your neck and back upright in a neutral position, while at the same time keeping your shoulders relaxed.

For the decorating adventures, use a ladder or step stool, so you don’t have to look up as much, or reach too high with your arms, which is also a good way to prevent shoulder impingement pain or a rotator cuff strain.

Lastly, take frequent breaks from these activities, at least every 30 minutes. Get up and walk around, while off and on moving your shoulders backwards or in circles in gentle movements. Doing small chin tucks and neck rotation movements can also help keep the neck muscles relaxed.

While these measures may not reduce the Holiday stress (which can also be a pain trigger), they can help reduce your neck discomfort and headaches, even after replacing those annoying strands of broken lights, or overspending on gifts that “you cannot afford not to buy”.

I want to end with an invitation to send me questions about any injuries, conditions, rehabilitation/ self-treatment or even conditioning exercise, that you are curious about. This could be interesting Q&A material for the future, and of course one-on-one communication.

For now, good luck with your shopping and decorating!

With best wishes for an incident free Holiday Season,

Gunnar

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