Do you ever find yourself gazing at your child and then feeling the need to rub your neck, rub your temples, or stretch?
Do you find yourself taking more pain relievers for headaches, and chalking it up to less sleep or stress?
Do you find that your neck feels tired or your head feels heavy by the end of the day?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, looking at your baby might be the cause of neck and head pain!
When you have a child, you will spend more time in a forward head, hunched over position. You will typically fall into this position when you are changing diapers, changing your baby’s clothes, bathing your baby, feeding time (breast OR bottle), rocking your baby, or while just staring at that perfect little face.
This forward flexed position puts excessive strain on your upper back, shoulders, neck and head. And if you spend too much time here, your body will start to respond. The response usually consists of tight shoulders and neck, or painful upper back, neck and headaches.
After awhile, certain muscles will become tight while others become weakened. This is known as Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS). The key features of UCS are typically a forward head position, rounded shoulders and shoulder blades that wing out.
As you can see in the picture above, the head is forward, which leads to shorter and weaker anterior neck muscles. Because the head comes forward, it pulls the muscles on the backside making than tight. The rounded shoulders lead to tight muscles across the chest and weaker muscles in the back around the shoulder blades. And this syndrome doesn’t necessarily have to start with the forward head. It can start with tight chest muscles because of carrying a child in a front carrier for an extended amount of time. Or it could start from shoulder slumping forward from sitting for longer periods of time. The whole thing is like a game of dominoes. Once one goes, the rest will surely follow.
All of these imbalances create stressors and stressors will manifest as that feeling of tightness, fatigue or pain.
And, this applies to more than just staring at your child! As a society, we are spending more and more time looking at our phones and our computers and more time in the car. Most of us tend to hold ourselves in that forward head and shoulder position during these activities. Really, look around at your family members and the public. Watch how they sit or stand, especially when on the phone, driving, or staring at their computer.
As a physical therapist, this is one of the most common postural imbalances I see.
Because, as we spend increased amounts of time on these tasks, the greater the chance we will start having issues because of it.
So how do we fix it?!
There are a few simple exercises that can help. Also, just being aware of your posture throughout the day and trying to adjust as often as possible will help tremendously!
- Cervical Retraction:
- Upper Trap Stretch:
- Myofascial Release:
- Tennis ball supine
- Pectoralis Stretch:
- Scapular Retraction:
- The key with this is to avoid flaring/jutting your ribs out while pulling the shoulder blades together. You will also want to make sure your jaw is relaxed and your shoulders are not up in your ears!
- SubOccipital Release:
- These are only a few pieces to the puzzle, and if you are having issues, I always recommend going and seeing your healthcare professional!
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