Neck and shoulder pain

The number of people coming for Alexander Technique lessons complaining of neck and shoulder pain and even nerve tingling in the arms and hands seems to be increasing. Nearly all mentions that they do a lot of computer and desk work, and in recent years also a significant amount of texting, emailing from a phone and iPad.  The increase in these symptoms seem to be a sign of our times.

It’s surprising however that in many instances, the symptoms are not always associated with the activities we do. And when I mention that they may be causing these symptoms for themselves, a look of horror and dismay crosses their face.

It’s fairly safe to say, that if we’re in pain, unless we know of a specific injury that we’ve sustained, then it’s 99% certain that we are causing the pain and discomfort for ourselves. It’s our own doing.  “But I wasn’t doing anything….only texting!”   The fact of the matter is, that it was ‘the manner in which we were doing it’ that is the issue.

There is no getting away from it, that given how our species has evolved over millions of years, we need to ‘use ourselves’ in accordance with our evolved design.  Like all vertebrate mammals in healthy situations, we should lengthen in stature to move.  However nearly all of us are shortening; we stoop, slouch, hunch our shoulders. These tendencies have become habits, so we are probably unaware of them, only being aware of the symptoms that they incur.

Looking along the train carriage in the morning, we can see many passengers stooped over their phone.  They are dropping their neck forward and down peering at the screen, possibly slumping at the same time.  If we stop and consider that the average head weighs around 5 kilos (11 lbs), we can see how there will be an enormous strain in the neck and upper back, sustaining a head position which is completely out of balance.  It’s not surprising that stiffness and pain will develop. And with repetition, the pattern becomes a habit. Discs become compressed and can impinge on nerves causing tingling.

There is nothing wrong with texting or the computer, but there is a problem in the way we go about it. We need to maintain the healthy upright poise we enjoyed as young children and which is our birthright. There is no escape. Gravity is working away the whole time, and unless we maintain good balance with minimum strain, we will cause problems for ourselves.  Even buying an expensive office chair will not resolve the issue if it’s our habit to hold ourselves awkwardly and off balance.

Alexander Technique lessons help to restore the natural working of our body, so we can enjoy that free upright stature.  Our sensory awareness also improves so we become more aware of what we’re doing to ourselves. Lessons in the technique also gives us a practical method that we can rely on. We can now use our intelligence using a proven method to maintain our poise, and avoid doing activities in such a way that will cause pain and discomfort. We can then text, email and use the social media without causing potentially serious problems.