5 Minute Routine at Work to Reduce Back & Neck Pain

The end of the pandemic is here!  No, it’s not.  Yes, it is!  No, it’s not.

Whichever end of the spectrum you choose to believe in, the truth is your neck and back pain from siting are here to stay unless you do something about it.  Every article on LinkedIn pushes a hybrid working from home and going into the office.  Whether that is true or not remains to be seen.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

A typical going into the office day:

  • 30–45-minute commute sitting each way (driving, carpool, public transportation)
  • 6-7 hours sitting at your desk, in a meeting, on sales calls, etc
  • 1 hour sitting at lunch
Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

A typical home office day:

  • 8-9 hours sitting at your dining room table, couch, or home office chair
  • Driving an hour for carpool or sports practice
  • 1-2 hour sitting while on devices/TV at night

Regardless of which method or combination of methods you choose for work, developing chronic pain from sitting is guaranteed!  What the pandemic did was increase the attachment to devices by requiring workers to be on more meetings than before as a way to ensure people are “working”.  If you were in denial of feeling the pain before March 2020, you probably aren’t now.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

How can you alleviate your muscle imbalances and pain while still being productive?  There are a number of stretches and exercises you can do standing next to your workstation, whether it’s in a traditional office sense or at your dining room office.  I’m asked in all my interviews by radio and podcast hosts how often should a person stand up and move around.  The answer is whenever possible.  Use that technology to set an alarm as a reminder to at least stand for two minutes every hour at the minimum. 

For those a little more ambitious that care about their health, here is a five-minute routine you can do twice or three times per day, without getting sweaty.

  • Arm flaps:  extend your arms at shoulder height to your sides, thumbs up.  With shoulders back, head looking forward and in line with your spine, raise your arms to touch thumbs above your head.  Lower them back to shoulder height in the starting position.  Repeat 15 times
  • Face pulls:  extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height palms facing down.  With shoulders back and head in line with your spine, pull your arms back toward your face, then return to the starting position.  Repeat 15 times.
  • 1 leg RDL with reach:  stand on one leg (use a wall or chair for balance if needed), extend the opposite arm at a 45-degree angle toward your head.  Reach across your body and touch the opposite knee of the leg you’re standing on keeping your arm straight and return to the starting position.  Do not lock your knee, keep it with a slight flex as you normally would while standing.  Repeat 10 times on one leg then switch.  As you get stronger and better balance, touch lower on your leg toward your foot.

These three movements can be done anywhere and anytime without weights.  All age groups (yes even kids doing online school) can do these and benefit.  The muscles worked are your hamstrings, rear deltoids, rhomboids, and mid trapezius.  These are muscles that get over-lengthened while sitting and typing on your laptop because you are hunched over.  Give them a try and email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com with how you feel after trying daily for a week.  You can also post on my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Want more help?  Sign up for my course Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening.  Guaranteed to make a difference or your money back!

You Have “Text Neck”. Why? Because You’re Staring Down at Your Phone All Day

“Text Neck” is a term coined by Dr. Dean Fishman, after he noticed more and more  people were coming to his office with the same complaint — they all had neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, or numbness and tingling into the upper extremity. This was concurrent with the rapid rise of smartphone usage.

After studying the new phenomenon, it was found that text neck (also called “iHunch” by some) leads to premature wear-and-tear on the spine and degeneration. It’s also become a pretty widespread condition. “It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”[1]

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

You might ask, “So what’s the big deal with putting your head down to check out an email?”

Fair enough. Let’s start with the fact that the typical human head weighs about 12 pounds. And the neck is fine with holding that amount of weight up, it was made to carry heads around, right?

Right. However…

When you bend that neck forward and down to check out something on your phone, the weight impact increases on your cervical spine (the structure of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that extends from the base of your skull to the top of your shoulders). For example, at a 15-degree angle, your head puts 27 pounds of pressure on your neck. At a 30-degree angle, it’s 40 pounds. At 60 degrees, it’s 60 pounds.

That’s a lot. 

Imagine carrying an 8-year-old around your neck several hours a day (and just imagine it, don’t try to actually do it!) and you’ll get the idea.

As you stretch the tissue for a long period of time, it gets sore and inflamed. That causes muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated disks and, over time, it can even remove the neck’s natural curve. And the other thing to keep in mind is you’re also engaging in poor posture when you’re in the “text neck” position and that causes other problems. Experts say it can reduce lung capacity by as much as 30 percent as well as cause neurological issues, depression and heart disease.

Oh, and those headaches you might think are being caused by the tension and stress of your job? The truth is it’s highly likely they’re being caused by text neck because it’s another common symptom. They feel exactly like tension headaches…but aren’t.

I know it’s silly to think all these bad things can happen just as a result of staring at your smartphone. But Google “text neck” for yourself and you’ll see for yourself — these physical outcomes are all the real deal.


[1] Lindsay, Bever, “Text Neck Is Becoming an Epidemic and Could Wreck Your Spine,” The Washington Post, 11/20/2014 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/20/text-neck-is-becoming-an-epidemic-and-could-wreck-your-spine/

If you want to read more about “Text Neck”, and other chronic pain issues, go to my website and order my new book Athlete in the Game of Life.

Text Neck: How to Overcome the New Pandemic in Neck Pain

Imagine a society where hardly anyone looks where their walking and is constantly staring down at an object in their hands.  They experience tension headaches and their bodies have remodeled themselves to look alien-like with their heads protruding forward and shoulders looking like Igor the hunchback.  Oh, that’s actually today’s current culture!

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Pick up your head and look around.  Does your neck hurt just do that motion?  Do you find it difficult to hold your head up straight, ears lined up with your shoulders?  If you answered yes, then you have forward head position (FHP), which is also called “Text Neck”.  Spinal surgeons report an increase in young patients who are experiencing upper back and neck pain due to cell phone use (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). A new diagnosis, known as text neck, has been established to describe this condition (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). 

Muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be altered over time from postural malalignments and injuries.  The body adjusts its shape to compensate for how you move and don’t move on a daily basis multiplied by weeks, months, and years.  This action is called spinal remodeling, and can work positively to reshape yourself into correct position, and negatively, which is likely your current postural alignment. Spinal remodeling increases the risk for degenerative changes to occur in the spine over the lifespan (Pop, Mihancea, & Debucean, 2018; Stone et al., 2015). Similarly, adults can also develop pain and other musculoskeletal symptoms by maintaining poor posture when working at their desk or workstation for extended periods of time. For example, frequent computer users commonly experience pain in the cervical spine, shoulders, back, and wrist (Borhany, Shahid, Siddique, & Ali, 2018).

How does this affect you in these pandemic times?  People working from home are spending more time on their laptops and devices than ever before.  Work is stressful enough, and you may think that is the cause of your headaches.  Sitting with abnormal head and neck posture while using computers on a regular basis is also associated with higher incidences of headaches (Mingels, Dankaerts, van Etten, Thijs, & Granitzer, 2016).  Does this ring a bell for you? 

The more we rely on technology, the more we fall into these patterns I’m talking about.  The good news is you can overcome them without needing surgery and missing work in physical therapy.  An exercise prescription can be the best medicine, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than pills and potions!  Here are a few tips to help you deal with FHP:

Foam roll your upper back and shoulders (thoracic spine) 2-3 days per week.

Thoracic spine foam rolling

Stretch the muscles of your neck and trapezius by holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds in 1-2 rounds.

Stretching your neck muscles

Strengthen your scapula by practicing retraction movements.  Remodeling back into proper posture is not solely based on stretching.  Strengthening the corresponding weak muscles is critical.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15 reps with heavy enough weight that you can’t do more than the suggested reps.

Ball squat with scapular retraction

Whether you’re currently working out or not doesn’t matter to integrate these stretches and exercises into your lifestyle.  If you don’t belong to a gym, don’t worry about it.  Use what you have at home to do this simple routine.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Low Back Pain: The Silent Killer From Sitting

Back pain.  What does your mind conjure up when you read those words, someone says they have back pain, or you hear about it from an advertisement?  The back is a large general area on you body and pain can radiate from all areas.  I have hurt my back a few times lifting weights on maximal type lifts, and moving in the same manner I do on a daily basis in the gym.  Where do most people who sit all day experience pain?  In their low back, and that’s also precisely where I injure myself also.

The presence of low back pain is significant in U.S. society with up to 35% of individuals experiencing reduced activity due to chronic back conditions and approximately 7% of that number with back issues that persist for 6 months or more (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019).  What executives, professionals, and older adults don’t often understand is their posture from sitting all day is the main culprit to their back pain.  You don’t have to sling heavy loads on a farm or construction site to put your low back at risk for chronic pain.  Overuse injuries are also based on posture and position, not just physical actions of the same repetitive motions.

Low back pain is very complex with several potential causes, which include but are not limited to muscle imbalances, decreased mobility, disc pathology, facet joint dysfunction, joint degeneration (spondylosis), and spinal instability (Cheatham & Kolber, 2016).   Let’s take a person who sits an average of eight hours a day between the commute and their career.  The muscles of the Lumbopelvic Hip Complex (LPHC), take on the brunt of sitting sins, which manifest themselves into low back pain (LBP).  Sitting weakens the glutes and hamstrings while tightening the quadriceps, hip flexors, and adductor complex.  In short, this means a person cannot bend their knees to lower themselves down into a squat position.  Whenever they bend down to pick up a box, bag of mulch, barbell, etc., they use the muscles of their low back instead of their glutes and quads in unison.  The low back is not built to take on such loads and is now compromised for high injury potential.  The weight of the load itself also does not need to be of a maximal resistance.

In my upcoming book, An Athlete in the Game of Life, due out in late 2020, I specifically discuss how these types of muscle dysfunctions in your 40’s can negatively affect life 20 years and more into the future.  Let’s give one example in my blog of the how and why LBP can be detrimental.  The body likes to be efficient in all movement, using the path of least resistance.  When one muscle group dominates another, it creates dysfunction and altered length-tension relationships.  In normal language it creates what I explained in the previous paragraph, one muscle group substitutes doing the work of the primary group because the body is used to moving in that way from tightness and weakness.  This in turn makes other joints of the body compensate for the dysfunction and imbalances leading to pain in say the knees or neck because everything must shift just to pick up that case of water.  Over time, you repeat this process as the “new normal” and the nerves reroute everything to this altered pattern.  One day you shift a little differently and BAM!!!  Now you’re stuck hunched over in extreme agony and out of work.

Did that scenario ring a bell for you or someone else you know?  Hopefully it rang an alarm also!  Hurting your back once makes you prone to hurting it again worse the next time unless you stretch, strengthen, and relearn the proper movements for picking up that case of water properly.  Obviously, you’re very successful in your career and don’t have time to workout hours daily.  This is where involving a Corrective Exercise Specialist as myself can assist you to be your best while not compromising your career and income.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Suffering silently and thinking LBP is part of the sacrifice you pay for being a successful executive is false.  You don’t need surgery as the first responder.  Stretch those quadriceps and hip flexors a few times a day and add some hamstring and glute strengthening exercises before or after work in your bedroom. 10 minutes a day can pay big dividends now and 25 years down the road, guaranteed!

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Social Distancing Can Be a Risk Factor All Its Own

Adult screen time is a term most adults don’t acknowledge as a problem. Ask a parent about their child’s screen time and frustration begins immediately! Has adult screen time during work from home and shelter in place negatively affected the physical and mental health of American adults?

Humans, as part of the mammal species, are social animals. Mammals live in families, packs, and herds, which make up a community support system. Any four-legged mammal taken away from its family, pack, or herd, doesn’t live very long. “… social species struggle when forced to live in isolation.”, says a study in Science Daily. As humans were forced to isolate themselves and use screen time more than ever, loneliness and physical health problems reared their ugly heads.

Brain scan of depression vs normal

Working from home was the dream for everyone! Wake up when you want. Wear your pajamas all day, maybe not even shower? Play with the kids at any time because the boss or your direct reports aren’t around. Have a lunch cocktail or two and start happy hour at 3:30. For the first week or two the vacation mentality was on, then reality set in and the same fun opportunities became fatigued and depressing. The same study from Science Daily says, “Loneliness directly impairs the immune system, making us less resistant to diseases and infections.”

Forward Head Position

From a postural standpoint, more adult screen time pulls your neck and head into a forward position. “Text Neck” is the term given to this dysfunction of the neck muscles and resulting muscle imbalances that cause headaches and disc compression. As an NASM certified Corrective Exercise Specialist, I’m trained to assess and provide an exercise type prescription helping people overcome these types of imbalances. A forward head position from looking down at a screen also contributes to rounded shoulders and a hunched over appearance. You know exactly what I’m talking about because you see it in the mirror every morning.

Gaining weight is a simple math problem, more calories in and less used equals a surplus of stored energy called fat. People don’t like to see themselves when they’re overweight. They have low confidence and self-esteem which can snowball into depression. Being overweight also wreaks havoc on knee, hip, and ankle joints to support the extra mass. More postural problems result for the low back to stay mobile for normal movements. Sheltering in place provides the perfect lab environment for math complete its natural equation and add 10 pounds or more over three months.

Excessive adult screen time while working from home and sheltering in place is becoming its own pandemic. Zoom call after Zoom call with additional emails and presentations to make are now the new normal for executives and professionals. Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon Prime dominate the days for the over 65 population who aren’t working as much or are retired. Age accelerates the problems mentioned already, now cognitive decline is a serious concern added to the physical atrophy happening.

What about isolation and screen time for your children or grandchildren? A similar story results for them. Study coauthor Valerie Hruska from the University of Guelph writes, “Previous research has shown that high screen use is linked to health issues in children, including lower activity levels, obesity and even language delays in younger children because they engage in less back-and-forth conversation.” Can children take on the same postural issues as adults? Yes, absolutely. Look at the slouching junior high and high school student, forward head and rounded shoulders from staring down at their device hours upon hours daily. While teens are a different beast than adults, they are the same mammal.  

Working from home isn’t all it originally thought it would be. The mental and physical health effects are months and years away from being finished. Whatever your views on social distancing, science shows it is not a healthy mid and long term option for humans mentally and physically:

  • “social isolation is a significant predictor of the risk of death;
  • insufficient social stimulation affects reasoning and memory performances, hormone homeostasis, brain grey/white-matter, connectivity and function, as well as resilience to physical and mental disease” – The Neurobiology of Social Distance

Get out and meet people again. The economy is reopening, use your judgement on the extent of social interactions. Life is more fun with friends and your loved ones. If you need help with your postural sins and joint pains, go to my website and get a free report, “3 Tips to Reducing Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.” My coaching programs could be the answer your looking for to fix adult screen time pain. We all need each other face-to-face, make it happen!

3 Upper Body Stretches to Loosen Up the Working From Home Executive

Working at home during the Coronavirus pandemic has executives and professionals all tensed up and feeling tight.  Not that it’s out of the norm to feel that way mentally, I’m speaking physically in regard to muscles from sitting and typing on your computer.  A whole host of movement dysfunctions result from hours of daily sitting that most people believe are their new normal.  This blog will help you with three specific upper body stretches to mitigate pain and discomfort in your upper body from working extended hours on your computer.

  • Stretch Your Biceps

“Stretch my biceps?” you ask.  Yes, your biceps!  Sitting with your arms bent at 90 degrees or more puts your biceps in a flexed position.  You don’t have to be in the gym pumping out barbell curls to have your biceps experience tightness.  The bicep muscles contract and bring your hand towards your shoulder, not much else purpose for them.  What is important are all the reasons why you bend your arm at the elbow to bring objects and your hand closer to you shoulder, face, and head (bringing food to your mouth is a vital function).  Being in a constant state of flex makes your biceps tight and over time, you can’t extend your arms fully without pain in your shoulder and elbow.  Stretching your biceps like the picture allows the proper length-tension relationship to return to your arms.  Pain in your elbow and shoulders, along with proper function, can extend your work life.

  • Stretch Your Pectorals (Chest)

Sitting with your hands on the keyboard, as I’m doing now, brings your arms together and contracting your pectoral muscles, also over stretching muscles in your upper back.  Over time, this position rounds your shoulders, makes you appear shorter, tightens your chest muscles, and reduces mobility of your shoulders and back.  If you workout, your bench press is impacted negatively from a reduced range of motion.  You literally become closed off and look unhappy even though you’re an upbeat person.  A simple stretch like the image below, is done with your arms in an L shape at 90 degrees leaning into a door frame.  It’s important to also stand up tall while leaning into the stretch for maximum effectiveness.  You will feel more open and give the appearance of more confidence with your shoulders back and head up!

  • Stretch Your Trapezius Muscles

Ever shrug your shoulders?  Of course you have, many times a day.  When you do so, your trapezius muscles pull up your shoulders to your ears.  With your arms elevated on your keyboard, your trapezius muscles are engaged to help keep them in this position.  Long hours of typing letters, presentations, and emails keep your trapezius muscles engaged.  Similar to your pecs, tight traps can give you the appearance of being shorter and hunched over.  Tight and consistently elevated traps pull your head forward extending your cervical vertebrae to potentially cause disc herniation.  Tension headaches also occur as a result of tightness in the traps and cervical spine area.  How can you stretch them out, place your body like the picture below.  Be sure to pull lightly on your neck to avoid injury.  Keep your back straight and upright pulling your keeping your head neutral with the ear lined up with the shoulder.  Do not pull your head forward or back, just directly to the opposite side of your extended arm.

Integrate these stretches a few times a day during your working hours.  Stretching these muscles makes a world of difference in how you feel and look.  During these unprecedented times of longer hours working from home, you need the stress relief!

Video Conference Calls Can Be Hazardous to Your Cervical Spine During Stay at Home

Work from home video conferencing is hotter and trendier than ever.  Staying safe is the mantra for reducing human contact and spreading COVID-19.  Many workers are able to continue in their jobs and companies have found ways to allow them to remain connected.  Even socially, people are having virtual happy hours and seeing old friends through the use of Zoom, Go To Meeting, and other video conference sites.  What is going largely unnoticed, are the significant tolls more screen time is playing on the physical dysfunction of our society.

tmjstc david website v1

Text Neck is a new term that describes how basically all humans are looking down to view their phones constantly.  It’s coupled with now leaning forward even more into laptop and tablet screens on multiple video conference calls daily.  This “new normal” posture wreaks havoc on the spinal discs in your cervical vertebrae.  The natural effects of aging are accelerated in middle age and younger adults, making them appear shorter and causing Degenerative Disc Disease, commonly called a herniated or bulging disc.  Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) can lead to excessive compression forces placed on the facet joints, which can cause pain and predispose to arthritic degeneration (Kumaresan, Yoganandan, Pintar, Maiman, & Goel, 2001).  You may not even realize the damage you’re doing because there are no nerve endings in the disc itself.  Up to 35% of individuals between 40 and 64 years of age may have a cervical disc herniation without symptoms (Antoni & Croft, 2006).

At what point do you take notice of your lack of mobility and reduction in quality of life?  Likely you haven’t noticed because you’re staring down at your phone.  The consequences are felt when you perform motions like turning your head to back your car up.  Not all cars have backup cameras, and now you’re compromising the safety of everyone in your car and oncoming cars.  You probably haven’t thought about that lately, it just hurts to turn your head more for some reason.

More seat and device time also lead to increased risk of COVID-19 death factors such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  While working from home may be great on the outside appearance, unless you regulate screen time even more, you are at risk of physically debilitating issues.  Being home also ties you longer to the screen because “working hours” don’t exist to the extent as before.  24/7 connection to email and other technology makes you accessible 24/7.  In going to work, there is a start and finish typically five days a week, this is no longer the case.

The need for self-preservation regarding spinal and joint dysfunction is now paramount.  Using specialized techniques for stretching and strengthening muscles to prevent soft tissue injuries in this COVID-19 world are now vital.  I offer a program to assist executives and professionals overcome these trying times with their joint mobility.  You can find specific information on my site.  You can also email me at athelteinthegameoflife@gmail.com for questions about the highly specialized program I offer.

Get control of your daily screen time tasks before they reduce you to constant pain and arthritis!