Top tips for posture problems and neck pain

Poor posture can cause neck pain by putting extra strain on ligaments and muscles. Standing with the shoulders slouched and chin jutted forward, working with your head down for long periods of time, slumping while seated and sleeping face-down are common postural problems that affect the neck. Suggestions on how to prevent posture related neck pain include:

  1. Correct your posture when standing or sitting, lift your chest, drop your chin slightly and relax your shoulders.
  2. Ensure your workstation is set up to help you sit properly.
  3. Stretch and change position frequently while you are working.
  4. Try not to sleep on your stomach, which overextends your neck.
  5. Choose a supportive pillow that maintains the natural c curve of the neck.
  6. Combat the muscle tightening effects of stress with relaxation techniques.
  7. Exercise regularly to improve muscle tone and posture.

Do you have elbow pain?

Here’s some quick ways to improve the pain and get out there to enjoy the short lived British summer!

• Stretch out: Tendons attaching to the bones around the elbow joint need to be kept healthy by stretching them. Overloading the tendons by repetitively being pulled by the forearm muscles is a common cause of elbow pain. Place your arm straight out in front of you, drop your wrist so that the fingers point to the floor. Use your other hand to gently and respectfully pull your wrist into a slightly more stretched position. Hold 30 seconds and repeat gently up to 6 times throughout the day.

• Massage: Use some moisturising cream and gently massage the over-worked forearm muscles that are causing the problem. With the elbow bent and placed against the stomach, it’s the muscles in the forearm at the elbow crease that need to be targeted. Gently lift them and release as well as small circular movement. Keep your hand relaxed during this.

• Technique: Often the muscles are over pulling on the tendons and bones because of poor grip technique and inadequate sizing of the racquet. Look at how you lift the kettle or make a fist. If your hand extends back fully when you are doing these activities, then you are potentially contributing to the problem with inappropriate muscle activity. If you do this when holding the racquet, get a coach to look at your technique and ensure that the racquet handle is the optimal size for you.

• If your neck also hurts, you have pins and needles or if you have a long history of elbow pain and gripping doesn’t particularly bother the problem, then the nerve underlying the muscles may be the cause of the problem. Often neck pain problems can refer down the arm and mimic tennis elbow. In this case, see your GP or Chartered Physiotherapist to release out the nerve at fault.

Top 10 tips to try and help reduce your back pain during pregnancy

• Stand with your back to the wall, and then try tilting your pelvis by flattening the small of your back into the wall.

• Avoid heavy lifting or carrying, particularly of toddlers as they do not stay still and wriggle causing increased pressure on the spine. It’s worth bargaining, bribing and persuading toddlers if it keeps your back safe. Give them lots of cuddles sitting down on the sofa as compensation.

• Trial a heat pack / hot water bottle in the small of the back to allow the muscle tension to relax.

• Lean forward on all 4’s on your hands and knees (similar to a good labour position) as this helps to take the weight of the baby away from your spine and reduces pressure.

• Trial sleeping on your side with a pillow between the knees or a small towel under your waist as this will help keep your pelvis level and reduce the strain on your back.

• Some women find that a corset or back support belt relieves pain. Often mothers are concerned that this will affect the baby but this is not the case.

• Get your bra size checked regularly. As breasts grow throughout pregnancy, ill-fitting bras can cause tightness around the spine and therefore cause pain.

• Test out different shoes as this differs for each individual. If you have a flattened low back, you may wish to trial small heels, or if you have an arched low back you could try flat shoes.

• Get your husband / partner involved! Ask them to do some gentle massage to the soft tissues of the back. Don’t let them pummel you though!

• Most importantly – start to strengthen the ‘core’ muscles of the lower abdomen and the pelvic floor to assist in supporting the baby and your back.

Look after your own back when doing lots of DIY or gardening!

  1. Don't just suddenly spend a whole day digging or weeding etc. Varying the tasks that need doing will help you change position and therefore use different muscles helping to reduce problems associated with prolonged static postures.
  2. As much as is feasibly possible try to maintain your low back (lumbar) curve with all the activities. Being bent over for quite a while coupled with heavy work or repetitive work can overstrain back muscles making the back more vulnerable to injury.
  3. Take regular breaks. In the workplace the EEC regulations suggest we move every 45-60 mins but I'd suggest if you're doing something very heavy, static or repetitive, more frequent breaks are a good idea.
  4. Warming up and stretching - normally we just associate this with sport. But manual work is exercise too. Making sure that you have good length (check out the link for stretches) and strength into your back and leg muscles can help reduce overstrain on your back. If you're not sure what's tight or weak maybe book an appointment with a physio or someone similar who can assess you and give you specific advice on what to do.
  5. Wearing the right footwear - instead of wearing flip flops for ladder work or digging try wearing trainers or something with some support in it.
  6. Choosing the right equipment for the job. Equipment for gardening and DIY has advanced quite considerably over the years, if you're doing a lot of something it may well be worth investing in the right bit of kit for the job helping to limit problems etc.

7 warm up tips

Most sports injuries are preventable. A significant proportion of the muscular problems we treat could have been avoided by warming up properly first.

The reasons for warming up are straightforward:

It increases the flow of blood to muscles, which heats up the body. This means that you are less likely to overheat when you start exercising, and this is when muscles are most likely to take on strain that they can’t bear.

  1. A good warm up only needs to take 15 minutes.
  2. Start with a brisk walk or light jog.
  3. Step up gradually from gentle to brisk movements.
  4. Concentrate on movements related to the exercise that will follow (like swinging a golf club or tennis racket)
  5. Stretch gently once the body has warmed up; each stretch should last for thirty seconds.
  6. Open up your lungs with slow deep breaths.
  7. Remember that it takes longer to warm up on a cold day; warm clothes will help.

7 tips to decrease aches the morning after...

There is nothing more depressing than waking up the morning after you have exercised feeling sore and stiff.

This is caused by the build up of waste products around muscle groups that you have pushed particularly hard.

The key to avoiding the aches is to remove these waste products as quickly as possible after exercising.

  1. Drink lots of water to flush out toxins.
  2. Focus on a good warm up before exercise begins and a good cool down that includes stretching all the major muscle groups.
  3. Cold water baths are not much fun, but they remove waste products and reduce swelling. The key is to spend ten minutes immersed in water at 15 degrees Celsius.
  4. If you have a cold bath, follow it with a warm shower an hour later to warm up again. The contrast between hot and cold will also pump up your circulation to remove waste products.
  5. A hot bath immediately after gentle training or the day after strenuous exercise will help relax muscles.
  6. If you have the facilities, one minute in a cold tub (10-15 degrees Celsius) and two minutes a hot tub (about 37-40 degrees Celsius), repeated about 3 times will accelerate healing.
  7. A sports massage the day after exercise will help reinvigorate tired limbs.

A combination of these will allow quicker recovery and reduce severe muscle soreness and stiffness. But don’t worry, your aches should all disappear in two to three days and you should be less achy next time!

14 tips to avoid back pain

It isn’t always sport or accidents that cause injury.

A large number of our clients with back and neck pain have created the problem by working at a computer. Here are 14 tips to avoid causing yourself damage at work:

  1. Good posture is vital. This means a straight lower back, shoulder blades pushed back, your head in line with body, and no chin poking! These require a good chair and your computer to be at the right height.
  2. Move around every 30 minutes to wake up your postural muscles.
  3. Drink lots of water to keep hydrated; frequent visits to the bathroom will also remind you to keep moving!
  4. Sitting down doesn’t mean you have to be statuesque. Stretch your arms, legs and neck while you are at your desk.
  5. Get someone qualified to look at your workstation.
  6. Exercise during the middle of the day; and don’t use a lack of gym membership as an excuse – a brisk walk will do your muscles no end of good.
  7. Stick a post it note on your desk that says ‘Posture’; when you start to ignore it, make ‘Posture’ your screensaver!
  8. Sit right back in your chair and bring the chair as far as possible under your desk.
  9. Don’t lean on your desk.
  10. Use a lumbar roll to keep your back in place (you can purchase these at our reception area).
  11. Stand up if possible when taking phone calls.
  12. You may not notice your shoulders and neck tensing up; make sure you relax them as often as possible.
  13. As little as 3-5 deep breaths an hour will help to relax tense muscles.
  14. Address any stress issues – maybe try yoga at lunchtime.