What is the most rapidly accelerating pain condition with regard to frequency that I see in my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood chiropractic office? I wouldn’t believe it myself if I didn’t see so many of these cases coming in on a regular basis—but it’s upper and mid-back pain. Wow! Why are so many people developing upper and mid-back pain today? Simple—it’s due to the increased use of computers at work and at home. Well, should we use computers less, then? Not at all—that’s just not practical in today’s information laden society. So, what then? Well, read on and I’ll explain exactly what can be done to minimize the pain and discomfort of upper and mid-back pain that comes along with prolonged computer use.
The first thing to address, I think, is how working at a computer causes upper and mid-back pain. Working at a computer, in and of itself, is not a problem. It’s working long hours, uninterrupted, at a computer that starts to cause pain and discomfort in the mid and upper back. Overtime gravity has a way of pulling us downward, so we start to hunch forward at the keyboard. If the screen we are using is a cathode ray tube (CRT) type—you know, the old school, bulky ones that start flickering when they need degaussing—then we often have to lurch our heads even further as our eyes get tweaked from the glare. Gravity and glare combine to put us into hunched forward posture—computer neck, I call it—and this carriage is what ultimately causes pain.
The computer neck posture puts the erector spinae muscles into the most relaxed position that they can be—not good since these are the muscles that should be holding us upright. However, when we sit in the hunched forward posture, we are relying on our spinal ligaments to hold our spines up, and they just aren’t equipped to do so. Ligaments are for holding bone to bone, and nothing more. So when they are forced to resist our forward drawn spines against gravity, they just don’t hold up so well. Ligaments have nerve endings, and pain receptors reside in the outer layer of the bones to which the ligaments attach; so when the ligaments are stressed, it causes pain.
This pain is of the deep, boring variety—that is, it’s hard to localize and it radiates out diffusely. This is the type of upper and mid-back pain that makes you stretch and contract to try for some relief, any relief, but it is usually to no avail. Because the ligaments are stressed, it’s very difficult to find a comfortable position without help. Throw in a few subluxations of the thoracic spine (upper and mid-back) and some accompanying muscle spasms, and you’ve got yourself one heck of an upper and mid-back problem.
It is not uncommon for people who do long stints in front of the computer to also develop neck and lower back pain too. And to add insult to injury, sitting for hours in front of a CRT monitor can strain the eyes and lead to headaches. So what can you do?
Chiropractic Can Help Relieve Upper and Mid-Back Pain
If you are experiencing upper and mid-back pain as a result of a forward drawn posture from sitting in front of a computer for hours, there is a solution—good old fashioned chiropractic care. As I have said above, by maintaining the hunched over posture, joints will lock up causing subluxations. These stuck spinal joints prevent proper movement of the upper and mid-back. Not only is lack of movement painful, but it can also hamper the breathing process. Poor breathing mechanics leads to lowered oxygen consumption—probably not the best way to exist. So getting a chiropractic adjustment is essential when you are suffering from upper and mid-back pain—not just to remove the pain, but to ensure proper oxygen flow as well.
A sports chiropractor (I happen to know a good sports chiropractor in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood) will not only adjust your spine, but will also work the muscle spasms in and around your thoracic spine. This is the area where everybody gets stiff and sore. It’s the area just around and between the shoulder blades. Many people, including computer users, develop trigger points in the trapezius muscles, causing painful, burning shoulders, neck stiffness and tension. Trigger points are called knots in layman’s terms, but since they tend to refer or “trigger” pain in outlying areas, they have picked up the more descriptive term. In my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood chiropractic office, I use heat, electric muscle stimulation and massage to relax these areas before administering the adjustment. The combination is exceptional for providing pain relief of the tight, achy and sore upper and mid-back that is caused by sitting for hours in front of a computer screen.
Sports Rehabilitation Aids Chiropractic in Relieving Upper and Mid-Back Pain
Along with chiropractic care to alleviate upper and mid-back pain, sports chiropractic rehabilitation is crucial in preventing the problem from becoming or remaining chronic. This is accomplish through a program of stretching and strengthening the upper and mid-back muscles, the chest and arm muscles (pectorals and biceps muscles), and the deep spinal muscles which are necessary to hold the spine up. What do you think, if one is to sit in front of the computer for hours, wouldn’t it make sense to strengthen the muscles that will be doing the brunt of the work?
I provide my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood chiropractic clients with some incredibly effective exercises to strengthen the upper and mid-back. I am confident in saying that most people are completely unaware of these exercises simply because they haven’t learned them in any class or from any trainer yet. Because I show my clients how to strengthen the small stabilizer muscles of the spine and shoulders, they learn the tools necessary to keep upper and mid-back pain at bay. It’s a rare fitness class or trainer that has picked up on the importance of training upper and mid-back stabilizer muscles. The exercises I provide are true sports rehabilitation; they are specific to the problem at hand; they correct upper and mid-back dysfunction.
Some Final Tips on Relieving Upper and Mid-Back Pain
What is also helpful when feeling upper and mid-back pain from sitting in front of a computer is to take periodic breaks, say every hour or so. I often recommend to my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood chiropractic clients to stop every hour on the hour and lie on the floor face up for five minutes. It’s best to be in this position with the knees bent and feet on the floor. This takes the most pressure off the upper and mid-back and allows those thoracic spinal muscles and ligaments to relax.
Another great tip is to use a hot water bottle to relieve the muscles of the upper and mid-back. Heat is wonderful for sore aching muscles. One word of caution: Do not lie on the hot water bottle as it might burst open and cause scalding. For that you can lie on your stomach on the bed or couch and let the heat do its thing for five to ten minutes.
Finally, try to sit up straight as much as possible when sitting at a computer. Saying that, it’s okay to use the back rest of the chair for support; just make sure you are using it and not slouching forward. Many clients ask me which is the best chair to use for desk and computer work, and my answer is that it’s whatever is comfortable for them. I am a strong believer, though, in quality products. So a $30.00 chair from Staples is probably a poor investment. Staples, however, has some very nice chairs—just look for quality (the chair to the right resembles something I would choose). A chair should be firm, but have some give. I like chairs the rotate, but I personally hate rocking back, so I lock my chair in place. And, of course, being able to adjust the height is important.
So if you are suffering from unrelenting, deep, boring, achy upper and mid-back pain; you’ve tried stretching it and resting it and having your partner rub it, and it just won’t quit; don’t hesitate, see your local chiropractor today. If you live in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills or West Hollywood, come see a sports chiropractor who focuses on relieving upper and mid-back pain. In my chiropractic office you’ll get pain relief, rehabilitation and tips on how to prevent or relieve your problem in the future. Computer work is a part of most peoples’ lives now. Cutting it out just isn’t an option. What’s more practical is learning the tools to allow for computer work—even for long hours—without developing pain. Now that’s what sports chiropractic is all about.
-May 31, 2009
The Six Keys to Optimal Health by Dr. Nicolas Campos
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The Six Keys to Optimal Health by Dr. Nicolas Campos