by Dr Angus Haack
Deadlines. No matter how well we prepare ourselves, we’re all guilty of leaving it to the last minute, even writing this I’m thinking “maybe I should have started this a week ago”. But it has to be asked, how much of an impact does an 8-hour haul on a computer have on your neck?
On average our head weighs 5.4kgs, that’s the same as a bowling ball! With all that weight up top, it is imperative to maintain a neutral position to give our muscles, joints and ligaments the best chance at staying healthy. Unfortunately without taking a break, it can be tough to maintain a neutral position and we begin to bend and slouch. When our neck bends to 45 degrees, the same 5.4kg head exerts over four times the force on your neck. That’s 23kgs that your muscles, joints and ligaments are trying to support. Unfortunately, we have not been designed to support this additional load and this is when neck injuries occur.
So what can we do to prevent neck pain? We start by taking “microbreaks”. Once we sit in a stagnant position, our body’s multifidus muscles (postural muscles) switch off within a matter of minutes. We then begin to strain our ligaments in order to stay upright, this is known as “creep”. Prolonged repetitive strains on ligaments are responsible for neck pain and injury. The only way to re-activate our postural muscles is to get up and move. The current guidelines on microbreaks is to take a microbreak every 20 minutes in order to avoid creep.
How am I supposed to get anything done when I take a break every 20 minutes? Great question. A study was conducted to assess worker productivity, discomfort and muscle activation among office workers. The study found that microbreaks every 20 minutes reduced discomfort, improved muscle activation and had no detrimental effects on productivity.
So how do we take microbreaks? There are many ways to take a microbreak during your day. The gold standard is known as “ Bruegger’s Relief Position”, which is a position which essentially unwinds the pattern of slouching. Other methods include standing up and stretching, walking around your chair or to a window and going to the bathroom.
Taking a break should not be seen as a luxury, rather it should be considered a part of your everyday life. If you have any questions on how to implement microbreaks into your everyday life, talk to your chiropractor and we can work out a strategy that works best for you.