Neck pain is a very common symptom people seek treatment for in our office. A thorough history and hands on evaluation of the muscles and joints in the neck and upper back help us determine the causes of patients’ pain.
Do you have neck pain related to sitting at your computer? Has your work environment been evaluated for proper ergonomics? Also your trusty smartphone can have a very unpleasant side effect… neck pain.”
Neck and upper back pain can often be related to Upper Crossed Syndrome – an extremely common condition that affects the upper back and neck of people who frequently use smartphones or sit at a computer for extended periods of time. As a result of the prolonged sitting that most people do in an office setting, the muscles in the upper back and neck get tight and sore. By continuously contracting for hours at a time these upper back muscles become shortened and can even build up tension in the form of trigger points – as a result the muscles on the opposite side of your body, your neck flexors, become inhibited and weak. In addition the muscles in your chest are slightly contracted and become tight, and consequently the opposing muscles in your mid back become weak.
This is a cycle that repeats itself on an hourly and daily basis and in doing so creates an unhealthy imbalance in your musculoskeletal system. The most common symptoms that result from this imbalance are headaches, neck, upper back and/or shoulder pain. The repetitive stress on these joints can lead to early osteoarthritis (joint degeneration) and further problems as your body ages over time.
Treatment for Upper Crossed Syndrome is most effective if it addresses all the aspects that are causing it. Reversing this kind of stress and tension generally starts with identifying the tight muscles, and restricted joints. Treatment can address these issues by releasing the scar tissue that builds up in tight muscles, and restricts normal motion in your shoulders, neck, and upper back. Long term care includes exercises to strengthen the areas that are weak, stretching regularly and sometimes modifying ergonomics (seated posture) at work that contribute to and often cause this condition.