by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
My friend at Jazzercise, let’s call her Angelina, has been carrying some serious tension in neck and shoulders lately. She’s trying everything she can think of to relieve the tension, which she thinks is happening as a result of sitting at her desk all day, staring at her computer screen, crunching numbers on her detailed spreadsheets (she’s an accountant) and moving the mouse back and forth, but isn’t having any luck. Raise your hand if you can relate.
She has visited a reputable chiropractor, who is known for getting results, and this chiropractor said to her, “You’re what we call a walking coat hanger.” Unfortunately, after her painful appointments, (it sounds like she has a very high pain tolerance), Angelina is left with terrible bruises on her arms with no significant relief to her muscle tension and everyone, including her family doctor, is telling her that this chiropractor is not doing her a good service. (Disclaimer: I’ve personally never visited a chiropractor and don’t know what’s involved but I know a lot of people swear by them and please don’t think I’m insulting chiropractors at all with these observations. I’m sure chiropractors do a lot of good work for a lot of people).
When my friend talks about her neck and shoulder tension, my ears perk up. I’m all about relaxation and I’ve put my thinking cap on to figure out ways to help my friend feel better and to also help others with similar problems get some relief, too.
First, I asked Angelina if her workstation — she works from home in a lovely, organized and spacious office — is what they call, “ergonomic,” a term coined in 1950 from the Greek word “ergon” which means “work.” Ergonomics is an applied science which is concerned with how well things are designed and arranged for human use to reduce fatigue and discomfort and to maximize productivity, efficiency and safety. She said, “Yes, yes, I had an assessment a couple of years ago and my chair is at the right height and my computer screen is right at eye level, where it’s supposed to be, and everything else.”
Well then, that answers that. With the ergonomic question out of the way, Angelina’s tension must be caused by too much stress and not enough relaxation. Since we’re all in the same boat, here’s a list of ways all of us can do to reduce and manage our stress levels.
5 Ways to Relax Your Neck and Shoulders
1) Get a facial: Facials are really, really relaxing. Not only do you get to listen to some healing and calming spa music for an hour or so — my Homespunspa playlist rocks (you to sleep) if I do say so myself — you also get the relaxing benefits from aromatherapy and of course some age-reversing skin care (stress will certainly take its toll on your complexion in more ways than one). And for the people with neck and shoulder issues, there’s usually a 10 to 20 minute, thoroughly relaxing massage that focuses on your adderalloral decollete, shoulders, neck and face included with every facial. You’ll love it!
2) Take breaks: Do you come to work and sit down at your desk and not get out of your seat all day until it’s time to go home? And please don’t tell me you skip your lunch, too. If you ask me, I think that’s a counter-productive habit. Our bodies were designed to move and not sit around all day. If you take regular breaks and move your body throughout the day, you’ll actually be more productive and you’ll get more work done in the long run. I recommend setting a gentle alarm to go off once an hour or so to remind you to physically get up out of your chair and take a break. (I have a chi gong chime on my phone which is very unobtrusive but helpful). Go and grab yourself a cup of tea or a glass of water, go to the washroom, take a walk outside, climb up and down the stairs, introduce yourself to the new hire, etc., etc. The breaks will help clear your head and will help you focus better. Speaking of breaks, I have to take one right now.
3) Shoulder rub conga line: Stuck in a meeting all day? Even better. If there’s more than one of you on a break at the same time, do the old shoulder rub conga line thing where you stand in a line or in a circle, one person in front of the other, everybody facing the same direction. Ideally, you’ll rub the shoulders of the person in front of you and at the same time, the person behind you is rubbing your shoulders and then after a couple of minutes, everybody turns around and returns the favour the other way. Expect some giggles.
4) Stretch: Stand up and drop your arms to your side. Slowly roll your shoulders 3 times backwards and 3 times forwards. Then extend your arms out in front of you and slowly bend your elbows and bring your hands up to shoulder level. Then bring your shoulder blades together as close as you can to each other. This move is called “Angel wings.” Release. Roll your shoulders again. Then shake out your arms. How does that feel?
5) Yoga: Sign up for a yoga class. When I was taking a yoga class once a week, I found an improvement in my attitude and a reduction in my stress levels. I also noticed that yoga really complimented and enhanced the work I was doing with my personal trainer and made my workouts that much more effective. It’s definitely something to add to the mix.
That’s it for now. I’ll add an “Are you a walking coat hanger (part 2)” with more tips on neck and shoulder tension in a couple of days. And, as always, if you have any tips to share, by all means, leave a comment and I’ll make sure your words get added to the conversation. Till then, breathe, smile and relax.