A Pain in the Neck
by Neil Anderson
Over the last couple of years we've seen an alarming trend at GPP. We've started to notice a sharp increase in MID/UPPER back & neck pain. Pain that originates in the upper scapular area and sometimes into the back of the neck.
It's alarming because when it hits, it's ROUGH. The pain literally takes your breath away. The lucky few get away with only a couple of days of discomfort. The less-than-lucky sometimes end up with pain that takes a few weeks (or more) to get rid of.
Let me describe this injury. It's a true phantom. Seriously, it comes out of nowhere and strikes HARD. A couple of times this phantom hit someone while in the gym exercising, although not doing something you'd expect to hurt you. One guy got it during triceps extensions. Another while doing jumping pullups. Surely the mid/upper back is involved in these movements (what isn't it involved in), but you'd expect it to hit more often/harder during pulls (cleans, deadlifts) and ballistic movements like jumping, etc.
Other times (most often) this phantom struck at home. One lady said she was brushing her teeth. One dude woke up with it. Surely it must have been delayed response to the workout, right? Maybe.
This caused us to sit back and re-examine our programming methods. We've even made some slight adjustments to our recommendations, workload and coaching techniques (Vets will notice we started swinging KBs lower). Yet, even though our coaching techniques have improved, we still see an increase in this weird injury.
18 months ago, I hurt my neck pretty badly. I experienced epic pain that kept me from fully turning my head to the R for more than 9 months. In fact, to this day I still can't look over my R shoulder without a twinge. I did it hiking. Seriously. My son and I were out for a Saturday morning hike in the Bountiful foothills. We stopped every 4 mins to do 10 burpees in the dirt. As I stood up from one of them - PAIN!
I blamed the burpees at first. Then I blamed the workout (we did pullups the day before). Then I realized, it was spring. The temp had jumped into the 60s that week. Rare for early April. Tons of beautiful sunshine! On Thursday of that week, I did my first bike ride (30 miles) of the year. Felt SO DAMN GOOD to be out, so I did another (same distance) the next day (Fri). 60+ miles in 2 days. Nothing to write home about, but I hadn't really been on the bike since November.
Ever see the position cyclists are in when they ride on the road? Cycling forces you into a head forward posture. It's rough on the muscles of the mid/upper back and neck. It takes a long time to become conditioned to this position. Too much of it, too soon and - PAIN!
Can you think of another activity that puts a person in that position. How about this ...
Yep. Same position I was in while cycling. See the correlation?
Text neck is a real thing. Especially for the exerciser (us!). See, the exerciser actually uses those muscles for something other than looking down. She also uses them to move heavy sh** around the gym. This is a good thing for your over-all health, but if you just spent the last 6-8 hours overusing those muscles of the mid/upper back and neck, you could be setting yourself up for an injury.
Try to spend less time in a head-forward position. Put your phone at eye-level. Assume better posture, like your mama taught you. Maybe even (gasp) put the mobile down from time to time.
Also consider some light stretching and mobility of the neck and upper back. Up, down, side to side, and around & back. Reach high above your head with your arms. Pull your arms (one at at time) across the torso. Do these movements every 1/2 hour that you are using your laptop, or that you have been texting.
Ute Cheer Squad is AWESOME!