Sore Neck, Back And Shoulders? Here Are Some Everyday Mistakes You Could Be Making

19/02/2016 6:48 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Woman rubbing aching back

Did you know wearing the wrong shoes could be hurting your neck? Or carrying your handbag to work every day could be putting your back out of whack?

When it comes to the human body, everything's interconnected, meaning something seemingly innocent you're doing in one area -- such as constantly wearing those cool sandals you picked up in Bali for $6 -- could be wreaking havoc on a completely different part of your body.

"The whole body is actually connected, so it isn’t uncommon for something down the chain to be affecting the neck, shoulder or back areas," Jonathan Lagrange from Body Science Physiotherapy told The Huffington Post Australia.

"So something seemingly very separate, like footwear, can be a real issue. Especially cheaper shoes that don't protect your arch. This is true especially for women. Heels aren’t great for you either.

"Unfortunately, fashion dictates you have to wear nice shoes to work, but one way to get around that is to keep your nicer shoes at the office and go to work in your sneakers, especially if you're catching public transport.

"Orthotics might also be a solution, depending on the circumstances."

Another tricky aspect to the human body is the fact it's very good at adjusting to its environment, which can actually be a bad thing if your work demands you sit at a desk all day.

"That's another interesting thing I think a lot of people don’t realise," Lagrange said.

"Humans are incredibly adaptable, which is a great strength but also a great weakness.

"If your brain can find a more energy efficient way to sit at a desk, it will use muscles which are more energy efficient rather than the muscle that's more appropriate.

"This leads to your core switching off and lower back muscles switching off, and then you get the tension that builds up in your neck."

Because desks and computers don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, Lagrange recommends balling up a towel and placing it between the base of your back and the chair.

"If you are sitting at a desk now, you can try to bring your shoulders up into a good position but you will find you slouch back down before long," Lagrange told HuffPost Australia.

"But something like a balled-up towel pushes on your lumbar spine, automatically creating a curve and putting your shoulders and neck back in place.

"Another issue is prolonged looking down, which can cause a lot of weakness in your back muscles. A lot of people don’t realise we spend so much time in front of computer with our shoulders rounded forward, then we get into our cars and drive home in the same position. It doesn't allow for extension in your spine.

"A really good way to combat this is something as simple as lying on an exercise ball, face-up, for three minutes a day. That can help a lot."

uncomfortable sleep

Is your mattress working for you?

Aside from work, another factor which could be affecting your neck and shoulders is your sleeping conditions.

"When it comes to a mattress, my advice is to go as firm as your comfort levels will allow you to," Lagrange said. "Not everyone can tolerate a really firm mattress, but if it's too soft, it will throw your posture out.

"As for pillows, you don’t need $200 state of the art, memory foam pillow to get a good night's sleep. It actually depends more on the position you are sleeping in.

"If you sleep on your side or back, you'd want a high profile, contoured pillow, whereas if you're a tummy sleeper, you'd be after a low profile contoured pillow."

Ladies who lug heavy handbags into work, this is another big no-no.

"I see it time and time again, women who carry these big handbags all on one side," Lagrange said. "It's not good for your alignment.

"A backpack would be better -- though carrying heavy backpacks isn't that great for you either, to be honest -- but if you refuse to wear a backpack, at least alternate the side you are carrying the bag on as often as possible.

"Also, it helps if you can carry it across your body rather than hanging it off one side."

Finally, if you're straining to read this article, you might want to look at getting an eye test -- for your neck's sake.

"People don’t notice if they need to wear glasses and so they don't go to get their eyes checked," Lagrange said.

"They'll start off their days fine, but as their eyes get tired, they will start squinting at the screen and starting to poke their neck forward, which can lead to issues.

"If someone presents to me with neck pain, I always ask them if they have had their eyes checked lately."

Of course, if you are experiencing significant pain in your neck, shoulders or back, it's probably time to pay a visit to a physiotherapist.

"It's not as easy as just going to your local massage place and getting the knots rubbed out because they will come back," Lagrange said.

"The issue could very well be further down the mechanical chain. Like I said before, it can be as far down as your feet for neck and shoulder pain.

"It's important to figure out why this pain keeps on returning."

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