Practical Guidance for Neck & Back Pain

Blog, Exercise & Training, Guest Blogs, Health, Injury

Have you ever suffered with nagging neck or back pain?

James can help with your neck/back painWell, today’s blog post is brought to you by James Tang, who is a Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist.

James is also an author and has recently released a book on the topic he will be discussing today.

James and I have been in contact through social media discussing some of the subjects that he talks about on his profiles, which have been well aligned with a lot of the things I’ve been working on myself lately.

Throughout this post, James will be dissecting a lot of information about posture and the importance of it to help you in avoiding or overcoming back pain.

A lot of people suffer from back pain and so I hope you get a lot from this guest post and can use James’ teachings to help you prevent or deal with any back pain you may be experiencing.

Over to James…

I will start by asking you two questions:

Do you think you are healthy?
It may seem a bit strange to ask you this but according to the World Health Organisation, being healthy is: a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.

Do you suffer from back/neck pain or have you had back/neck pain in the past?
Although these conditions are common, they are preventable in most situations.

Introduction

Throughout the body, muscles work in synchrony and rarely does a single muscle work without other muscles contributing.

This is because the functioning of the body is an integrated and multidimensional system.

Consequently, impairment in one system can lead to compensation and adaptation in other systems, thereby initiating the cumulative injury cycle.

In order to explain why static postures are detrimental, whether standing or sitting, we need to understand that muscles adapt to the positions we put them in.

The longer we hold them in a certain position, the more tissue adaptation occurs.

Muscles can therefore become adaptively shortened or lengthened depending on the position we put them in.

Although the body is efficient in adapting to the stresses that we place upon it, these adaptations will lead to muscle imbalances.

It is this which predisposes us to back and neck problems.

back painWhy Is Good Posture Important in the Prevention of Neck & Back Pain?

The spine has four natural curves in the saggital plane (i.e. when viewed from the side). These curves are essential for shock absorption.

In the neutral position, the spine is mainly supported by the bony structures of the vertebrae resting on top of one another.

When these curves become either exaggerated or flattened, the spine increasingly depends on muscles, ligaments and soft tissues to maintain its erect position.

This dependence leads to tension. This tension then causes lower back strain and trigger points.

Over time, this will lead to spinal disc injury.

Reciprocal inhibition

This is the process of muscles on one side of a joint relaxing to allow contraction on the other side of that joint.

If you sit down all day (hip flexion), your hip flexor will be in a constantly contracted state, whilst the gluteus maximus (antagonist) will be neurologically switched off through reciprocal inhibition.

The glutes are therefore not able to contribute to hip extension and stabilisation. As a result, other helper muscles (the synergists) have to take over.

Movement occurs through the coordinated contraction of a number of muscles around a joint.

If the prime mover (glutes) does not contract properly, then the brain will look for alternative solutions to create the same movement.

Resulting in the synergist taking over the role of the prime mover (i.e. synergistic dominance).

This is a temporary solution to ensure that the correct movement occurs.

But, synergists are not designed to be the agonist and they are less efficient. Over time, this can lead to dysfunctional movement patterns which can result in injury.

Common Postural Problems

lower cross painLower Cross Syndrome

This is the result of muscle imbalances in the lower segment which can occur when muscles are constantly shortened or lengthened in relation to each other.

There is tightness of the erector spinae and the hip flexor group of muscles.

In addition, there is weakness of the glutes and the deep abdominal core muscles.

These imbalances result in an anterior tilt of the pelvis and a compensatory hyperlordosis in the lumbar spine.

Corrective exercises involve the activation of the deep core abdominal muscles alongside the glutes. The tight hip flexors & erector spinae need to be stretched.

Upper Cross Syndrome

upper cross pain

For the upper body, we tend to bend forward, protracting our shoulders whilst we sit in front of our computers.

This ends up leading to hyperkyphosis and forward head posture.

By holding the head and neck in an unbalanced forward position, the spine increasingly depends on soft tissues to maintain an upright position.

For example, the upper trapezius and erector spinae must contract constantly to support the weight of the head in the forward posture, predisposing to the formation of trigger points in these muscles leading to the predictable referral pain patterns.

This includes “tension neck syndrome” which is characterised by headaches and chronic neck pain.

The pectorals are also tight.

The muscles that are commonly weak, include the deep cervical flexors, lower trapezius and rhomboids.

If it has been determined that your neck pain is caused by muscle imbalances, this needs to be rectified by using the following corrective exercises.

Corrective Exercises for Upper Cross Syndrome

pain chest An example of a pectoral stretch

Doorway chest stretch.

Stand in an open doorway and place your hands on the inside door frame with your arms at shoulder level, holding them straight.

Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest.

 

Examples of strengthening exercises for the middle trapezius and rhomboids: 

  • Barbell bent-over row
  • Seated row with resistance band

Strengthening exercise for the deep neck flexors 

Since weaknesses of the deep neck flexors are commonly associated with neck pain, there are exercises that can be used to reactivate these muscles. 

Neck flexors can be activated by simple head-nodding motions (chin tucks), i.e. by moving the chin closer to your ‘Adam’s apple’. 

Teaching points of chin tucks: stand against a wall so that when you retract your head, it just touches the wall. Hold this position while breathing normally for 10 seconds and repeat the process 12–15 times. Progression – hold for longer as you become stronger. 

Conclusion

It must be emphasised that exercises alone are insufficient; you must also be mindful of the following advice.

Be aware, besides corrective exercises, it is imperative to develop good postural habits by improving your general work ergonomics.

You should train your body so that you can recognise when you are adopting a poor posture.

Correcting your posture may feel awkward initially because your body has adapted to sitting and standing in a particular way.

Only a limited variety of corrective activities for postural dysfunctions that predispose to neck pain have been mentioned and there are numerous alternatives available.

The objective of this piece of work is to simply highlight the harmful consequences of poor posture for the neck and lower back, as well as some of the ways to counteract these adverse effects.

It is imperative that you engage an appropriate professional to give you advice and guidance to ensure that the correct activities are being selected for your particular situation.

 

For further information on James, or to get in touch with him to discuss any types of postural based pain, then you can find him on a number of platforms (listed below)…

Instagram | Website | YouTube

 

For other blogs, written by Tyler head on back to the tylerwhite.blog main page, or choose from the links below!

http://www.tylerwhite.blog/stretching-importance/
http://www.tylerwhite.blog/6-benefits-training-in-warm-weather/
http://www.tylerwhite.blog/problems-charity-boxing/

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