We consider ourselves healthy when we are able go to work every day, take time to exercise and then spend time with family and friends. However there is an increasing number of us who are suffering from physical aches and pains in the neck, back and other joints of the body that infringe on our ability to enjoy life to the full.
To find out the scale of people affected, Dr Gary Tho, a chiropractor and the founder of Chiroworks, did a survey while working on his new book, The Pain Free Desk Warrior. He surveyed 600 ‘desk warriors,’ – people who are stuck at their desk for more than two hours a day – and found that 80% experienced some type of pain, with the most common being headaches and neck, shoulder and back pain.
It is a shocking number but why is it happening?
Dr. Tho found that there were three common factors amongst the people surveyed:
- Prolonged sitting.
- Prolonged use of the computer including clearing emails via smartphones.
- High levels of stress.
He also observed that many people who go to the gym, do yoga or Pilates, run and cycle, three to six days a week, still suffer from aches and pains.
“Alfred, a business owner, is very fit. He looks great and has the kind of healthy body that might make other guys jealous. He has also completed numerous marathons. One day he entered my clinic with recurring back pain, but this time it was much worse. After our assessments, we did an MRI which revealed a slipped disc in his lower back,” Dr Tho reveals.
Unfortunately, an hour in the gym or a 10km jog does not undo long hours spent at the desk and the use of media devices, which can lead to strain on the body and injury.
In a report published by We are Social – Digital, Social, and Mobile in APAC 2015,’ it was found that Singaporeans spend an average of 4.7 hours on the Internet per day, not including the time spent answering emails. Some spend more hours on devices than they do asleep.
As a result, people develop poor posture, which will worsen year after year, impacting the functioning of their joints. For example, many people acquire rounded shoulders, a syndrome of hours spent on the computer. When they start doing exercises, or playing sports involving overhead arm positions like tennis, they run a high risk of shoulder impingement pain.
“This is one reason why I’ve seen many people who suffer from neck and back pain even though they have personal trainers, or attend regular fitness classes like yoga and Pilates,” Dr Tho adds.
How do we resolve this dilemma? Here are some rules to try and follow:
1.Don’t worry about the pain
This is counterintuitive – Dr Tho explains that some pain is due to a host of factors, that when combined, create huge stress for the body, resulting in pain. Instead of worrying about what to avoid, find out what exactly is injured and start working on a plan to fix it.
This can be done with a combination of correcting biomechanics, movement patterns, compensation patterns and habits.
2.Prevention is better than cure
In today’s society, we can’t avoid using computers or accessing the Internet. The increasing use of mobile devices places a lot of strain on the neck and shoulder muscles.
Instead, adopt this simple advice: When using your phone or tablet, alternate holding it up at eye level to keep your neck in an upright position. When you look down at your phone or tablet for long periods, it strains your neck muscles, so changing your habits will prevent certain muscles from being overused.
3.Address your aches and pains early
“It’s sad to see that most people live with pain because of these three mistakes.” Dr Tho laments.
Mistake 1: It’s not bad and it doesn’t warrant any care.
Mistake 2: Pain is normal, and just part of life and ageing.
Mistake 3: Ignorance on possible treatment.
Seek medical advice early and be willing to work on a plan to fix your problem. The easy way out is to take pain medication but the long-term solution to avoiding aches and pain is to address the whole body, concentrating on regular strength and mobility programmes with the focus on the health of body joints.
“The company executive is one of the main groups suffering from repetitive aches and pains. They are the essential backbone of companies, and the breadwinners for their families. Yet many accept their ‘fate’ of living with aches and pains as part and parcel of their life,” says Dr Tho. “It doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple solutions available when people take actions early. Don’t procrastinate, your health and wealth depends on it.”