Over the years I have seen some remarkable changes in clients. The term “quality of life,” means a lot when pain, restrictions, and swelling become part of your daily life. Things such as tendonitis, tension headaches, neck pain, and limited mobility take on new meaning when they interrupt your daily movement.
This issue is all too common in clients with desk jobs. They start the day off right, sitting up straight with amazing posture. As the day grinds on, the body gets tired, the stress sets in, and the mind shifts to focusing on the stacks of work they are trying to complete.
They begin to hunch forward (causing forward neck). Their back muscles (lats) get tighter, and the tightness travels up their body to their upper back, traps, and neck muscles.
Case Study 1: Neck Pain and Frequent Headaches:
Hundreds of clients came to me with this issue. For those people, I advised them to foam roll their lats, readjust their work stations, and also foam roll their upper backs on a daily basis. With that, their posture improved, their stomach muscle got tighter (from sitting up straighter for longer periods of time) and their neck tension subsided.
While having good posture takes practice, in the end you are left with a better work day, less back pain and neck pain, better abs, and a better outlook. Don’t forget that better posture also makes you look younger!
Other issues can arise due to tight lats, it can travel down your limbs and cause other daily irritants such as the one in case study number 2.
Case Study 2 Long Term Elbow Tendonitis: Ron started training with me and told me that he had this nagging elbow pain for the past 5 years. He wore an elbow brace daily, and his next step was surgery. After watching his movements, and listening to his story. It was clear that his office job was playing a huge role in his joint issues. I watched as he performed several back exercises. It was clear that his lats (Latissimus dorsi – back muscles) were in a shortened state. This was causing a tugging on his joints, in particular, the shortened lats were causing extra strain further down his arms and tugging on his elbow. I spoke to him about the positioning of his mouse and keyboard at work. I also asked him to bring both of them closer to his body to minimize any additional tension of his back muscles. I advised him to foam roll his lats every day before his workouts. Within weeks the elbow pain had decreased. Within months the elbow pain was completely gone!
- Set a Timer on your phone or on your computer. Every hour have it send you a reminder to sit up straight, suck your stomach in toward your spine, and realign your mouse and keyboard to the proper location to minimize reaching and slouching.
- Stretch through out your day: Tension and stress are cumulative, meaning they stack up over time and make things progressively worse. If you’ve set your timer to readjust (as listed above), also add in some seated stretches. Stretching forces the body to relax no matter how much stress you’re under. Think of stretching as you daily 20 second massage or reset button.
How to Foam Roll Your Lats for Nagging Neck Pain, Back Pain and Elbow Issues
“Lie on one side with the arm closest to the ground outstretched with thumb facing upwards. Place the foam roller under the arm in the axillary region. Slowly roll back and forth to find the tender spot. Hold for 30-90 seconds until the discomfort is reduced. Repeat on other side (NASM).”
How to Foam Roll Your Upper Back
Lie on the floor with the foam roller behind the upper back. Cross arms to opposite shoulders. Raise hips off the floor and slowly roll back and forth to find the tender spot. Hold for 30-90 seconds.
So why does this one muscle seem to create SO many issues?
- Tight Latissimus Dorsi muscles can pull down on the shoulder traveling up the body then pulling down on the traps. this then travels up the neck, pulling on the muscles of the neck and upper back. Relaxing the lats through foam rolling and stretching can allow the muscles to relax and elongate. This removes excess tension on the shoulder, neck and upper back.
- Tight lats can give you a rounded back or hunched over look. This contributes to upper back pain.
- Tight back muscles can also pull on the top of the hips, leading to imbalanced walking. In many clients, it’s shown up as a “slight limp.” This usually occurs on the side of their dominent hand.
- Tight lats can also contribute to what trainers call “forward head.” The posture seen above is an example of how it can affect the body, your posture and increase tension, pain and headaches.
You don’t have to suffer through pain on a daily basis. Using these fitness tips can help you find relief and end the inflamation cycle. I’d advise using the foam roller exercise in the morning before work and in the evening before a workout or after your shift at the office. During the day, try to stretch regularly and drink a lot of water to flush out extra toxins that may be trapped in the tight muscles.