Help my neck.
August 27, 2008 8:11 AM   Subscribe

I sit at a computer all day and then like to play/compose at the piano in the evening. I've always had slight discomfort "sitting up strait" due to forward head posture, but I've been able to minimize the discomfort with frequent breaks, stretching and such. Recently the pain has increased. I've read up on posture and have started Alexander Technique lessons, but when I try to sit up strait as in all the ergonomic diagrams and as directed in lesson, the base of my neck and the area between my shoulder blades aches MORE. Shouldn't correct posture minimize this? Any advice, exercises, or techniques to get my body on board with the new posture?

Other relevant info:
- I believe my work area is set up correctly and so is my piano bench height.
- I'm 6'3
- I'm mildly active (some yoga and walking)
posted by distrakted to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The muscles in your neck and shoulders are used to the "incorrect" position, and you're stressing them by making them do something they're not used to. When they get used to the new positions, the ache will go away.
posted by jlkr at 9:22 AM on August 27, 2008

I agree with jlkr.

Also, bring it up with your Alexander teacher. One of the things about body position is that new body positions also feel 'wrong' to us after a long period of doing something else - so automatically trusting what your body is telling you is not always the best call.

Ask if there's some stuff you can do at home (in front of a mirror) to help you calibrate between your lessons, too.

In the meantime, doing things that help with muscle relaxation and reprogramming might help - a warm bath, a gentle backrub (simple touch in the area you're trying to fix from someone else can help your body pay better attention to what's going on: it doesn't necessarily need to be a 'get all the knots out' thing.)
posted by modernhypatia at 9:38 AM on August 27, 2008

off topic, but is strait not straight an Americanism as in strait-jacket?
posted by A189Nut at 10:30 AM on August 27, 2008

Have you considered changing your chair? I know it's not practical for tickling the ivories, but I had some great success in using a kneeling chair for my old desk job. I found that having my knees at the same level as my hips made my back want to curl, which tired the muscles I used to keep my back straight. Lowering the knees made it easier to roll my hips forward, which resulted in better posture and reduced strain.

And then, there's always option of working while standing up. It's not as crazy as it sounds. :)
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:05 AM on August 27, 2008

your rhomboids hurt. they're muscles which connect your shoulder blades to your spine, and they're working extra hard now to keep your shoulders back. Continue to strengthen these (google "rhomboids strengthen" if you run out of exercises). You also want to open up the front of your chest so that your rhomboids, and other back muscles don't have to overcome the tautness or stiffness of the front. rhomboid strenghten, pec stretch.

it will continue to hurt and bother you for a bit, but as we strengthen muscles, we're basically creating minor tears and injuries, then creating more tissue by trying to heal it. this is how we strengthen.
posted by smartless at 11:49 AM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

A chiropractor might help.
posted by Citrus at 12:14 PM on August 27, 2008

As a writer and a pianist, I get tension/aches/tangled muscles in that exact same below-the-neck-between-the-shoulder-blades spot. I've found that a combo of things can help (though not 100% of the time): taking advil preemptively when I know I'm in for a long day of sitting with my hands at the keyboard; taking small breaks throughout the day to "refresh" my posture (it's easy to slump back into old habits); and taking actual move-away-from-the-desk breaks to do matsyasana (fish pose -- one example here) or sometimes a backbend or shoulder stand. Something about those poses, the way they require a kind of squeezing of the shoulderblades, really helps break up the accumulating tension.

(Also, I felt similarly *more* sore/out of alignment/"off" when I first did Alexander Technique back in music school -- until I was used to it, it just felt like I had suddenly been made aware of all the spots in my body that were "wrong" without enough knowledge to make them "right." It does get better.)
posted by mothershock at 12:23 PM on August 27, 2008

Sitting up really straight at a 90 degree angle between thigh and torso puts extra strain on the lower back by compressing your spine. try to lean back a little more at your computer. and see if it helps to spend more time lying down. :P
posted by Xianny at 5:37 PM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: thanks, all good suggestions.
posted by distrakted at 4:32 AM on August 31, 2008

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