A stiff neck is a workplace distraction
Unfortunately, many of the tasks we perform while on the job directly contribute to stiffness in the neck. Few of us have the discipline to keep good posture for eight hours per day; even fewer of us have office equipment that supports good postural habits. Inevitably, we find our heads creeping forward and our shoulders scrunching together; we find ourselves answering the last e-mails of the day with tired brains and stiff necks. This stiff neck syndrome is a natural result of our postural shortcomings: as we let our heads creep forward toward the screen, the downward pressure to our vertebrae is magnified and the supporting muscles in the neck are strained as they try to stabilize the head in its new position.
Striving for neutral posture
Neutral posture is defined as a position in which the body is aligned and spinal pressure is minimized. There are different versions of neutral posture depending on whether you are sitting, standing or sleeping, but the principals remain the same: maintaining the natural curvature of your spine, keeping the head balanced atop the spine and minimizing the stress applied to spinal joints, muscles and bones.
Not all sleep is equal
Sleep should be a time of rest and rejuvenation but, for many people sleeping in subpar settings, it can actually be a time that contributes to a cycle of stress and back pain. Comfort of body and mind are what let us fall asleep; comfort influences feelings of calmness, which lead to feelings of relaxation, in which your body is able to reduce energy expenditure and focus on resting. Sleeping on an old mattress with ill-fitting pillows hardly sets the tone for such a scenario. So let’s truly define comfort as the combination of a physical state of being and state of mind in which you are able to sleep restfully and protect the health of your spine. Changing the way you use your pillows is a key way to influence a healthier sleep life.
Stiff spinal joints limit range of motion and cause pain
Whether it’s due to the chronic inflammation involved in arthritis, acute injury, or tight muscles surrounding the joint capsules, a stiff and sore spinal joint is sure to throw a wrench in your best laid plans. And that wrench often hurts- the stiffness itself is a precautionary measure telling your body not to move this particular region excessively in order to avoid reaching a breaking point. The cruel irony is that motion actually facilitates healing so, in order to reduce stiffness and pain, we need to focus on improving range of motion. How do we do that? Spinal mobilization.
Your spine consists of four primary curves
The cervical curve at the top of your spine consists of 7 vertebrae in a concave shape; the thoracic consists of 12 vertebrae in a convex shape; the lumbar 5 of the largest vertebrae in the spine forming a concave shape; and finally the sacral curve, consisting of 5 fused vertebrae and a convex shape. These curves link together to form the S-shape of your spine, enabling it to compress and expand in order to perform shock absorbing and movement duties. The essential shape of your spine is important for staying upright and preventing pain, but there are many forces working against you. Over time, the compressive nature of gravity, along with other factors, conspires to alter the curvature of your spine.