If I had to set up the board on “Family Feud” for the top 5 areas that I work on in a day, BNS (more affectionately known as Back, Neck and Shoulders) would be right up there at the top. For many, computer work is the big culprit. But there are many occupations that call for people to have their heads and shoulders forward: dentists, chefs, musicians, parents. In addition, people carry heavy things like laptops or pocketbooks on one shoulder and/or walk around in subzero New England weather. Some even manage to do all this while reading or texting without a second thought.
“What’s the problem here?” you say.
Try holding a 10 lb weight in your hand close to your body and then hold it away from your body…for several hours. Arm’s pretty tired, eh? That’s how the base of your neck pretty much feels after several hours of having your head forward. Same goes for your lower back. Many people lean forward when they are at the computer. The further and longer you go, the more strain it puts on the lower back and hips. And what about those shoulders? Most people bring their shoulders forward and collapse into their chest which not only keeps those muscles in between the shoulder blades stretched to their furthest point, it also trains your chest muscles to sit at their shortest point (try opening up your chest muscles…ouch!) Stick a laptop on one shoulder with both shoulders hiked up around your ears during the winter and you’ve got an upper body that should be smoking like a broken radiator since it’s working so hard.
“So, what’s a bird to do?” you ask.
Lying back on a balance ball at the gym or on a rolled up beach towel at home is a great way to get into the opposite position of being hunched forward (just be gentle if you have vertebrae issues). Doing a forward bend with your feet planted apart can provide some light traction for the neck and shoulders (your head and upper body become good weight). But, if you feel like the pain is really baked in there, the most immediate remedy I know is massage.
“Oooh, I saw that coming,” you say.
Well, that’s good because it means that you already know that massage is good for you. When it comes to BNS issues, it is probably one of the faster ways to get relief without popping a pill. Perhaps your therapist does some assisted stretching to help loosen up that neck and open up your shoulders. Perhaps they take their elbow and sit on the aggrieved muscle until it is so overwhelmed that it has to let go. Maybe they take that same elbow and slowly drag it to break up several muscles and a bunch of connective tissue all at once. Glory be, doesn’t that sound delicious? Many of the people I work with are not only hurting by the time they get to the table, they’re outright exhausted by their daily demands. So being able to sack out while the work is getting done is the best part of their day.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that the definition of “doing it all” has grown. People not only work full-time jobs and start families, they are going to school, taking care of aging parents, and dealing with the changes of their own aging bodies as well. More often than not, taking care of emotional issues or working out (which would be another great way to combat BNS issues) falls to the wayside. So, if anything from this post sounds familiar, I invite you to find a massage table (preferably one with a talented therapist) and like my friends, Kool and the Gang, advise: “Get Down On it. If you really want it. ‘Cuz you gotta feeling. Get DOWN on it.”