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tight shoulders

Sleeping position: How should you sleep to avoid neck pain?

This post is for people wondering about the best position to sleep in, especially if they suffer from neck pain, upper back pain, neck tightness or forward head posture. 

How should you sleep to avoid neck pain?

We frequently get asked 'what the best position to sleep in?'.

Although this question has many answers depending on the specific needs of the person, we wanted to address what we see as one of the most common sources of issues for our clients, and that is to focus on head and neck position. 

The aim is to take the pressure off the structures supporting your head, as well as allowing your body to be as comfortable as possible throughout the night. 

We hope that you can get some insights from this short video to help your body work with you in your efforts to alleviate neck pain etc as well as improve your posture for the whole third of your life you are SUPPOSED to spend asleep.

As with all our videos, this one has been transcribed below.

Be sure to check back on this page next week when Martin explains how best to choose a pillow.

If you have further questions about making the most of your sleeping position, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us. 

Never underestimate the importance of good quality night of sleep!

 

Hi, it’s Martin and Kieran from Align Chiropractic and one of the most common questions that we get asked every day in practice is: “what position should I be sleeping in?” 

What I want to go over today is (in our opinion) the two best positions that we want to be in when we're asleep, and it's really very similar to what we're looking for when we're looking at your posture when you are standing up. 

What should your sleeping posture look like?

If we have a look at Kieran’s posture, what we're really looking for when we look at somebody’s posture from the front is when we look at head posture, does the head line up coming in the middle of their chest we don't want to see posture that's tipped over this way or twist it around or whatever. 

When we translate that to sleeping position, we’re trying to set up a sleeping pose so that our posture is in that ‘ideal’ position. 

Kieran, if you can turn side on, we want to see the same thing, because our bodies are in three dimensions we’re also looking to make sure that our posture is lined up from the side so that this big weight about our head is balanced over the big weight of our chest so we're looking for our ear over our shoulder to balance up, so again if we translate standing posture to lying down posture, that’s what we're looking for there. 

Sleeping on your back

So, what I’ll get you to do now Kieran, if you can lie down on your back for me and if we look at posture from the side here, we've got the right position here, lying on our back we've got a pillow set up properly.

What we're really looking for is that same thing where we've got that ear kind of balancing up over the shoulder. 

What about side sleepers?

Now if we can now turn into our side posture, what we're really looking for here again is, if we're looking at the middle of the face we're wanting that to be almost a straight line. 

We don't want it this pillow was too low, then it would allow his head to tip… well that's way over to the side but similarly if we had a higher, pillow it's going to lift that up too high. 

So we're looking for a straight line there, we want that lining up, kind of at the middle of the chest so that again, we’re keeping that perfect posture while we’re spending the seven and a half to eight hours in this position while we're in bed this way. 

I hope that video is useful gives you a bit of an idea that the two best positions for you to sleep in are either on your back or on your side, because it's really important to make sure that your spinal posture is in a great position while you're asleep.

 

Simple exercises for people with neck pain

If you have neck pain, tight shoulders or headaches that come from your neck then I suggest you watch the video below.  

In the video I run you though some very simple movement exercises to keep you mobile, try and get your neck moving again and hopefully help make you more comfortable as you go through your day. 

I have tried to keep them very quick and easy so that you can incorporate them into your day simply and without having to make it too obvious that you're doing them.

If you are concerned about your neck pain or you have any questions, or if you experience discomfort doing them, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with us. 

As always, the video has been transcribed below, but I recommend you watch to get a demonstration...and to see me in my solo video debut. Enjoy. 

 

Hi I'm Kieran from Align Chiropractic. I just wanted to run you through a quick exercise for getting your neck moving.

Now if you're somebody that suffers from neck pain, a tight neck or headaches that feel like they come from your neck then this video is for you. 

One of the main group of exercises that we recommend for our clients regularly are to get their neck moving again. 

It's really important that your neck range of motion is even to both sides, it should be pain free and it shouldn't feel too tight one side compared to the other. 

The important thing to remember when doing these exercises is don't push through a pain barrier or push to the extremes of your motion. 

What we are wanting to do is get to the point of restriction and just relax into that position. 

So its very simple to do; first of all we're looking at rotation. 

Turning your head to one side holding it at that point of restriction for three seconds come back to the middle then turning the other side. 

You're looking for it to be even on both sides and pain-free, hold for three seconds, back to the middle. 

Next we go straight to side, lateral flexion for three seconds, back to the middle and then to the right-hand side for three seconds and finally, back to the middle again.

Remember, it’s three seconds on each side and you cycle through all four of those five positions 5 times to keep things moving.

If you are finding a lot of restriction or are particularly uncomfortable on one side more than the other, that can be an indication of a more significant underlying imbalance.

If you are feeling that or have any concerns about how your body is moving,  I'd recommend that you get on to us and let's figure out what's happening for you.

Neck Pain

Neck pain is a common condition that most of us will suffer from at some point in our lives. 

It can arise for a whole host of reasons but if you have ever suffered from neck pain, you know that even mild neck pain can feel like  it is taking over your life! It can make it harder for you to sleep, work, exercise and enjoy time with your friends and family.

The most common causes of neck pain  are day to day movements and postural stresses and  neck pain is rarely the sign of a more serious condition.

In case you aren't sure where neck pain is, here is a stock photo to indicate what a pain in the neck neck pain is. In this instance, pain is indicated by redness.

In case you aren't sure where neck pain is, here is a stock photo to indicate what a pain in the neck neck pain is. In this instance, pain is indicated by redness.

Neck pain can often refer to areas such as your shoulders, arms and upper back, as well as being a cause of headaches.  

Common causes of neck pain include:

  •         Poor posture (the way your body is positioned when standing or sitting)
  •         Sleeping in an awkward position.
  •         Upper back and neck muscle tension.
  •         Injury such as a muscle strain.
  •         Whiplash. 
  •         Prolonged sitting, especially when using a desktop or laptop computer.
  •         Arthritis.
  •         Degenerative changes in bones of the neck as a part of the ageing process or previous injury.

You will notice a common theme to the list above and that is; all of them appear relatively trivial when compared to the impact that neck pain has on our lives.

In fact, for a lot of our clients suffering from neck pain, that adds to the frustration. It doesn't matter if the pain is mild or severe, recent or decades old, most frequently, our clients will say that it just doesn't add up. “Why they are in so much discomfort? Why won’t the pain just go away by itself? Why does it keep coming back?”

How can something so mundane cause so much pain?

In these situations it is highly likely that there is an underlying imbalance of function that meant that their body was ‘on edge’. There was a build up of tension in an area of their spine and that mundane event was just the straw that broke the camels back (for the want of a better term).

Does it make sense to you that if your spine is functioning well that a trivial stress would be enough to make your neck hurt? If your range of motion was symmetrical, your muscles, ligaments and tendons were relaxed, elastic and strong  does it make sense that it would suddenly start to hurt you? 

Of course it doesn’t. 

An underlying imbalance of function is most likely why you notice neck pain that comes out of no where, or won’t calm down, or keeps coming back. 

This is why our initial assessment of someone with neck pain looks for two things:

  1. What is the cause pain and how do we get it to calm down as quickly as possible? 
  2. Is there an underlying imbalance and if so, what can you do to address it to minimise the chances of it coming back?

There are also more serious causes of neck pain that, although much more rare, we need to screen for. 

The more serious causes of neck pain are issues like fracture, disc prolapse compressing on nerves, cancer or meningitis.

We have designed our assessment to be able to determine if your neck pain arises from an issue that we can start to address immediately, requires referring for further testing (such as X-rays or MRI etc.) or if you require immediate referral for medical assessment. 

So how do I know if I need to see you or go to the Emergency Department?

If you are experiencing intense neck pain after a severe head or neck injury, have lost vision due to an accident, are having difficulty swallowing, have lost or severely altered bowel and/or bladder function or your neck pain is linked to intense fever, we advise that you visit your ED as soon as is possible to make sure that you aren’t suffering from more serious conditions. 

If you have any questions or concerns about neck pain, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us at Align.

4 Steps to Assess people with Headaches

If you or someone you know suffers from headaches than this post is for you. 

Below is a video Martin and I made about the steps we take when assessing a client who visits us at Align suffering from headaches. 

There are many different types of headache and not all of them respond to chiropractic care. This is why we go through our 4 step process to determine 

  1. What type of headache you are suffering from,
  2. Are you in the right place and we the right people to help you,
  3. What steps do you need to take to get on top of your headaches.

If you are concerned about your headaches or just sick of dealing with them, contact us at Align and lets find out how to get you on track. 

The video is 3 minutes but for those of you who prefer to read, there is a transcript below the clip. 

 

Hi, Martin here and Kieran from Align Chiropractic and this is a short video to let you know what to expect if you were to come and see us because you've got concerns about your headaches. 

Step One:

The first thing when you have headaches, is you want to make sure that you get the opportunity to tell us all about what's been happening with you. 

There are a lot of different types of headaches and so we're going to be asking you some really specific questions about the type of headache you have, where in your head you get it, the sort of things that make it better or worse and also the things that your headaches are making it harder for you to do in your life. 

This is because while headaches are one part of the problem for, a lot of people the most important thing is to be able to get back to doing the things that they either love to do or need to do in their life. 

So step one we're going to be asking some questions and giving you an opportunity to tell us all about your headaches. 

Step two

When we're assessing somebody who's come to see us with headaches, is to do a palpatory examination. 

A palpatory exam is where we use gentle touch, gentle pressure to assess areas where joints might be restricted in their motion or muscles might have tightened up or there might be areas where there's tenderness that can be part of the trigger for head pain. 

We will also often extend beyond that area, once we’ve got an assessment of the neck and upper back to other related areas so we might be feeling out through the shoulders, palpating the jaw or palpating down through the lower back and rest of the spine. 

Step Three

When we are assessing somebody who has come to see us for headaches is we look at how their spine bends and moves and twists. 

Often when there are imbalances or problems in the way the neck is working it will affect how far you can bend to the left compared to the right. the way that we assess that is to use a process called Inclinometry, which is where we use a precise instrument, called an inclinometer to measure exactly how far you go to the left compared to the right. 

So we can assess all the way, comfortable range of motion one way and then see if going the other way is more restricted. 

Step Four: 

When we are assessing somebody who has come to see us complaining of headaches, is we assess the alignment of their spine. 

Posture is the window that we can use to assess how their how well aligned their spine is and we use specialised software to take a digital photo of them from the front and the side we then digitise that to see if there's any significant alteration in their alignment. 

The way the software works is we first of all take a photo and it uses the iPad to make sure that we have a photo that is absolutely the software then places our grid around exactly where straight up and down is and then we can compare landmarks on you that should also be aligned to see exactly how straight up and down or symmetrical your posture is.

How to set up your desk if you use a desktop computer in 4 steps

This is a post for people who want to know how to set up their desktop to work on or for longer periods of time in the office or at home.

It is especially good for people worried about or who suffer from tension headaches, neck or low back pain, high or sore shoulders, or other postural issues such as forward head posture.

In the video, Martin (once again using Kieran as an ergonomics model extraordinaire) talks us through the correct ergonomics of how to set up our desktop as a workstation.

Please enjoy the quick video. 

For your convenience, the ergonomics demo has been transcribed below.

Hi, Martin and Kieran and we are here to give you a quick instructional video on how to set up your desktop computer so that it puts you in the best position to look after your precious spine and nervous system that you have, given that we are spending so much of our day working on computers.  

We have got a separate video that shows you how to set up for a laptop. There are some similarities but there are a couple of really key differences when you’re setting up for a desktop, so we'll run through everything here as well. 

Just like with the laptop setup, key thing is we're gonna start from the bottom up.  

Step 1: Seat height and foot position

First thing is, Kieran has his feet absolutely flat on the floor, he’s not crossing his legs which would create a twisting torsion through your lower back then cause tension to build up through the day. 

Next, we set the height of the chair. If you have a gas lift chair, you want the height of a chair so that your hip is either at the same level as his knee, so we've got a horizontal line, or so that the hip is slightly higher than your knee because that allows him to maintain a really good lower back position. 

If you sit with your hips lower than your knees it's really easy of get into a rounded posture, causing horrible loading up of tension in your lower back. 

Step 2: Position your arms, elbows, keyboard and mouse

So once we've got that position we then want to make sure that the height is still okay for his elbow position. 

What we really want is as close to possible as a 90 degree angle at the elbow so that you can have relaxed shoulders while your hands are on the keyboard. 

What we don't want is to be sitting too high, so that you have to reach down or too low, so that you’re scrunching shoulders up to get your fingers onto the keyboard. 

That height looks pretty good.

Then what we want to do is to zoom in or out, so that we've got a nice relaxed position here. 

If Kieran was too far back he'd be reaching and then having to use all those shoulder muscles to hold his hands on the keyboard. 

What we want is that so that his arms are nice and relaxed by his side while he's using the keyboard. 

The same rule applies to the mouse.

A lot of people may have the keyboard set up right but then end up having the mouse right across the desk where it’s causing a peep of pressure through their shoulder that feeds back up into your neck and causes all sorts of problems. 

So once we've got that set up, this is where it's a bit different to the laptop setup. 

3. Screen Position

With a desktop, the screen can be moved to two different positions depending on how often you needing to look at your keyboard. 

If you touch type or you're doing a lot of data entry where you're very rarely looking down at the keyboard, then you really want the screen to be a bit higher than we've got it here. In that case, the landmark that I always use is the absolute dead center of the screen.

If you are the type of person who needs to look down at the keys periodically you don't want the screen too high, otherwise you make yourself dizzy going up and down. 

So the compromise in this instance is to have the centre of the screen at about chin level and that way you're never looking too far up, and you're just working in this range. 

If you're the sort of person who can touch type and you don’t really need to look at your keys, then you can go up higher which has the advantage of having a posture where your head is more balanced over your shoulders. 

What we have here is a set up that is good for Kieran if he can touch type. 

If he doesn't often need to look down at the keys he can spend all of his time just looking straight ahead at the screen. 

So for this setup, what we've done is put a couple of books underneath the screen here, to raise it up, allowing us to have the centre of the screen at the point where it's hitting here, in-between the lip level or the tip of his nose.

That's a really comfortable posture for him to be able to look at the screen and have his head posture really nicely balanced over the shoulder, meaning a nice relaxed position through here. 

When you're in that position, you are not building up so much tension on your neck and shoulders etc. by looking down all the time. 

Remember, this setup is only for people who can touch type but it's a really optimal position that'll mean that he feels nice and comfortable for hours and hours of work. 

Step 4: As always, take micro breaks

Micro breaks are discussed in the Laptop video here.

I hope you found this video helpful please feel free to shoot us a message and let us know what you think.

How to set up your desk when you use a laptop in 4 steps

This is a post for people who frequently use a laptop to work on or for longer periods of time. It is especially good for people worried about or who suffer from tension headaches, neck or low back pain, high or sore shoulders, or other postural issues such as forward head posture.

In the video, Martin (using Kieran as the perfect ergonomics model) talks us through the correct ergonomics of how to set up our laptops as a workstation.

Please enjoy the quick video, for your convenience, the ergonomics demo has been transcribed below. 

This video will show you what you need to do to set up your desk when you are using a laptop.

Hi, this is Martin and Kieran from Align Chiropractic, we're here today to give you a quick video that will answer one of the most commonly asked questions that we get in the practice every day.

How should you have your desk set up so that you can look after your spine and your posture when you're spending time at your computer?

The first example we're going to do today is how to set it up for a laptop. Laptops are always a little bit more of a compromise than a desktop because you can't separate the screen but we’re going to go through how you can set it up so that your posture is in as close to the optimal position as possible. 

Step 1: Seat Height

The first point that we want to address is make sure, we can't see this but just take my word for it, Kieran's feet are flat on the floor. 

So we don't want crossed legs because it’s going to create twisting and torsion through our pelvis and lower back and create tension there. 

We want to make sure that the height of the chair, if you've got a gas lift chair, is up high enough so that your hip is either level with your knee so that we've got a straight line there, or you want the hips slightly higher than the knees.

What you don't want, because it's going to create a real curve in your back is knees higher than hips. 

So first point; set up the gas lift so that you're at that height. 

Step 2: Keyboard and arm position

we also want to have when we've got a hand on the keyboard there we want to make sure that we have pretty close to a 90 degree angle here. 

The main thing you don't want to have is to have the keyboard a lot lower, so this is particularly important for shorter people. 

If you have the chair too low then you're in a position where you start having to bunch up and create a lot of tension in your shoulders to be able to keep your hands on the keyboard. 

We want the set up so that we have hands easily on the keyboard with elbows roughly at about that 90 degrees or slightly more open. 

So we want to move our chair in or out so that with our hands comfortably on the keys we've got our hip and shoulder lined up because what we're really wanting to do here is have the big weight of the chest balanced over our hip.

What we don't want to be is so far back that we start to do this kind of thing, where there's a lot more tension on both the lower back and shoulders. Similarly, we don't want to be leaning all the way forward because it's going to tire out our back. 

Step 3: How do you manage the screen position?

So, a nice comfortable position of the chair, then this is the bit where we always have the little bit of a compromise with the laptop where we want to get your head balanced over your shoulder, but if you're looking down at a screen on a laptop, then that's always going to be a little bit tricky. 

The idea with the laptop is, make sure that you realise that you're always going to have a little bit of your head posture forward rather than balance the weight of your head over your shoulder so it’s really important to take micro breaks. 

Step 4: Micro Breaks

There are programs you can get that will remind you every 20-25 minutes to just stop for a minute, relax your arms way aside have a little micro break, turn your head all the way to the left, all the way around to the right, just drop your shoulders up and down a little bit and then you can get back to work.

So there it is, a couple of key points that you can use to set up your desk or your laptop in the optimal position, thanks.