7 Reasons Why Standing is Awesome (and sitting is not): Reason #6

Standing prevents neck tension and keeps shoulders stable

Sitting causes pulling and tension through the neck and shoulders

For many people who spend a lot of time working at computers, muscle tension and pain in the neck and upper body are a common problem. In this post, Dr. Dave and Dr. Heather explain some of the mechanics of why this happens, and how we can help prevent the problem.

Dr. Dave:

Your neck, shoulders, and upper back are one functional unit. You cannot separate neck issues from upper back or shoulder issues. Your shoulder blades are the key that holds these three areas together. There are extensive muscle connections between your shoulder blades, neck, upper back, and shoulders. Because of this, if you lose stability of the shoulder blades, you lose it in all of the above areas.

A stable shoulder blade stays down and lives close to the spine. Sitting at a computer encourages the shoulder blades to move away from the spine, while using a keyboard and mouse encourages an upward slip of the shoulder blade. This creates instability of the neck, upper back and shoulders, creating an environment that increases the risk of injury to these areas. If you have knots in your shoulders or that knot behind the shoulder blade, you may have shoulder blade instability. Those “stress knots” may actually be instability knots.

Another crucial reason to maintain stability in your shoulder blades and mid-back region: your mid-back also has to move in order to breathe. When you inhale and exhale, your ribcage lifts up and down and moves in and out. When the mid-back gets stuck, it can compromise your ability to breathe.

Dr. Heather:

The mid-back, or thoracic region, is the naturally the most mobile region of the spine. Poor body mechanics caused by sitting and lack of motion causes restriction in the thoracic area. Over time, this process can cause instability in the neck and low back area, also changing the natural curves that help distribute the weight of the head over the bones of the neck. When the C-shape curve in the neck starts to straighten over time, it causes pulling and tension from the weight of the head hanging off the neck muscles instead of sitting atop the bones, and this tension affects everything all the way down the spine. The mid-back especially becomes restricted, and the shoulders become unstable.

What we can do to help our neck, upper back, shoulders, and mid-back stay stable is stand as much as possible, especially while we are working. Taking frequent breaks from computer work is also essential to keeping our spines moving and resisting getting stuck in forward-leaning typing positions. The first step is simply being aware of what our bodies are doing so that we can know when to correct it.

Stay standing, get moving, and stay tuned for the very last post in this seven-part series. Next week we’ll conclude with a discussion of how standing and movement help keep the nutrients flowing through your body and to your brain.


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