It probably ain’t your neck!

The second most common problem people I see have is, the neck and shoulders. Rarely is the cause from the neck or shoulders. What is surprising is the real reasons why our neck and shoulders hurt. Today I will discuss the three real reasons our neck and shoulders hurt.

Many times, the things we do like sitting too long, having poor posture, or having lack of strength may contribute to the pain, but these are not the cause. Most people will tell me they are frustrated because they have spent tons of money on the proper chair or desk, placed the monitor higher on the wall, and even bought shoes that claim they can help through better support. Many have begun working out because they were told that core workouts will help. Others have been told that strengthening the back would stop the pain, yet in both cases the pain has not stopped.

Over time, tight neck and shoulder muscles can lead to bulging or herniated discs, and even pinched nerves. Once this happens, many people are getting injections, taking pain pills, and having surgery to fix the problem, but still the pain persists. The frustration is just too much! Let’s look at the 3 key reasons your neck hurts.

1- How You Sit or Stand
This one seems obvious, and your chair could be a part of the problem. The chair you choose is important because you need a chair that fits you and that does not include all chairs. The correct chair for you should support your back and thighs. The seat of the chair should be the same length as the underside of your thighs. Meaning if you sit back in a chair so the hips are against the back of the chair, the front of the seat should touch the back of your knees. The height of the chair should allow the thighs to be level when your feet are flat on the floor.

The back of the chair should be as long as your spine. Lumbar support or a small pillow for the low back forces the pelvis forward which can lead to low back stiffness when you stand. If the back is too short, the shoulders may lean back causing the head to lean forward due to fatigue.

The back of the chair should be as long as your spine. Lumbar support or a small pillow for the low back forces the pelvis forward which can lead to low back stiffness when you stand. If the back is too short, the shoulders may lean back causing the head to lean forward due to fatigue.

Standing is no better because as you fatigue, the pelvis tends to lean forward for balance. This tightens the back of the thighs, hamstrings, and the muscles of the low back. If sitting can become painful, then standing back up can, too.

Once you have the correct chair, next the muscles of the chest and neck come into play. Using a keyboard causes the arms to reach forward. This tenses the muscles on the outside of the chest and will, eventually. force the head forward, tensing the muscles on the front of the neck, especially as you fatigue. There are stretches for that at the end of this newsletter.

2- Placement of the Head
Too many times we are told to move the screen, but the truth is, it has more to do with the placement of the head. Have you ever noticed how your head slowly moves forward the longer we look at the screen? The longer we do this, the more pressure that shows up on the back of the neck. Our heads weighs 10-12 lbs. sitting on top of our shoulders. Every inch the head leans forward, that same pressure increases by 10 lbs. per inch. That means if your head is leaning forward just two inches, the pressure on the back of your neck and between the shoulder blades could be as much as 30-32 lbs. Over an eight-hour period, the back of your neck and shoulders will be exhausted.

The mistake that most people make is to think they need to strengthen the back of the neck and upper back. The reason for the pain is the muscles on the front of the neck have tightened. Once they tighten, the muscles on the back of the neck must work twice as hard because the back of the neck is fighting with the front of the neck. Imagine if I placed a weight on your forehead and you wore it all day. By the end of the day, the back of your neck would be tired from holding your head up with the additional weight. The upper back fatigues as it is supporting the upper torso. Unfortunately, when the head leans forward, the outside chest muscles will tighten allowing the shoulders to round forward. This increases the fatigue at the upper back.

3- How You Walk
This one is the most surprising for nearly everyone until I explain why, then it becomes very logical. Here, the shoes you choose play an immense role in your posture and most importantly, your neck. The problem is, we have been educated by shoe companies and doctors that good shoes must include arch support, heel supports, and a cushiony sole for comfort. I understand their goal is to relieve foot pain, but at what costs to other parts of the body?

Arch supports, while they relieve arch pain, prevent the arch muscle from expanding to absorb the impact of your foot hitting the ground. This may lead to knee or back pain later. Heel supports have been shown in studies to cause us to walk heel-to-toe which places a tremendous amount of force on the heel. This can have a detrimental effect on the hips and spine.

For the purpose of this article, the thick cushiony soles are where most of the neck and shoulder tightness can originate. The sole should bend at the arch area of the foot. If you cannot bend your shoe in half with your hands, neither can your feet. When a shoe is this stiff, it prevents the ankle from bending as you walk, forcing you to lead with your head. Remember leaning into your computer screen as I described earlier? This means you are in this position all day, even when you walk.

How To Solve These Problems
First, buy better shoes! You don’t have to go cold turkey and buy shoes that are totally bendable, like mine. However, begin with a pair of lightweight shoes that can bend move than what you are wearing now. Practice walking barefoot as well. Barefoot walking will build up the muscle strength in your feet and legs. Once you can walk around your house barefoot, then try the beach.

Second, buy a better chair. Think back to how I described buying a chair that fits you. We are all different sizes, and no chair is a one size fits all. Even if it has 100 different settings. The seat cushion of the chair is most important as it needs to be the same length as you from your hip to the back of your knees. The same is true of a car seat too.

Lastly, stretch the front of your neck and outside chest muscles. I will include the videos of each in this newsletter. It may take 1-2 minutes to do them, and I would suggest doing them several times a day at first. Once you feel better, maintain the looseness by continuing to do them twice a day for the rest of your life. Once you make these changes you will love how you feel and now you are in charge of how much pain you must endure.

What is Going on with My Book?
On Friday, we will announce the winner of the title contest. You have until Thursday this week to get your last-minute suggestions in. We now going into our second re-write and then on to the cover and illustrations. Don’t forget there will be a Pre-Sale of the book coming soon.

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