People ask “what are the most common issues you work on?” The answer: most of the problems I help people overcome stem from a condition I call the Desk Warrior Syndrome (DWS).
If you like sexy scientific names you call them:
- anterior (forward) head carriage
- thoracic cage shortening
The signs and symptoms manifest with some variation from person to person, but usually include:
Pain between the shoulder blades
As the shoulders and head move forward, the chest becomes compressed, and the back starts to over-stretch. The poor rhomboids (the muscles that anchor your shoulder blades toward your spine) are caught on the losing side of a game of tug-of-war, as your scapula starts deviating up, out, and away!
Pressure & pain in the low back
The hamstrings are stuck in a short tight position at the knees, while the hip-flexors are jammed up at the hip. Your trunk is flexed forward and your spinal erectors and a muscle called quadratus lumborum (“QL” if you are savvy) are also stuck in an endless battle with gravity to keep you upright and not toppling over.
Elbow or wrist pain
Usually manifests first in the arm that handles the mouse, can also develop from impact on both arms from the keyboard. Hypertonic forearm extensors, especially in the middle of the arm near the elbow (these are the deeper muscles that attach to the fingers) and a trigger point will develop on the common extensor tendon, that will make you cry “UNCLE!!” when found and activated by your therapist.
Proactive & Preventative Measures
- Ergonomics: Take a look at your posture at your desk. Are the equipment, chair, and desk set up so that your spine is in alignment? Are you twisting to see the monitor? leaning over to reach the mouse? What angle are your wrists at the keyboard, are they neutral or hyper-extended?
- Frequent Breaks: Studies have shown the most productive people take a break each hour. DO NOT USE YOUR BREAK TO DO SOMETHING ELSE ON YOUR COMPUTER OR PHONE. Instead, get up, and walk to get some water. Do some stretches. Take a lap around the building. Set a timer to go off every 45 minutes and then get up and get your lymph and blood moving. Hydrate, and try to limit caffeine.
- Self-care: Therapeutically stretching and exercising the pecs, shoulders, fingers, hip flexors, and forearms are all WONDERFUL. At night, you can use self-massage, or an Epsom soak to release tension. Strengthen the rhomboids with a resistance band or, if you like, do rows with dumbbells.
- releasing the fascia in the pecs
- treating any trigger points (aka “knots”) in the upper body
- fascial spreading to the erectors in the low back to promote healthy curves in the spine
- mobilizing the shoulders, neck, wrists, and hips to help keep the joints nourished with fresh fluid
- lengthening the hip flexors to put the pelvis back in an optimal position
This work can be done by manual massage, or with the cups, and usually includes a mix of both.
Monthly sessions are usually best when you are in the maintenance phase (i.e., no longer feeling acute pain) while semi-weekly sessions are needed in the beginning when you are first experiencing pain or dysfunction.