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by Jason Gruss, MD, FAAPMR

Most of my patients have a sore neck or shoulders at some time.  Frankly, me and most of my friends andneck_pain_2.jpg family get tight and sore muscles in our shoulders and neck.  Long days at work, stuck in the car for a long commute, waiting in line at the store . . . . regular daily activities make us use our muscles for long stretches of time, without rest.  These days these stretches of time are longer than ever.  One of my patients said that at his job it would be common for him to sit in the same position for 8 to 10 hours, only getting up to grab coffee, or lunch – which he then ate at his desk!

If any of us would lift weights at the gym for 8 to 10 hours, we would expect to be sore and tired the next day.  We don’t expect to be sore from just sitting.  In reality, our muscles that control posture work the same as any other muscle. They need to be trained, stretched, and given proper time to recover.

Here are a few simple ways to make sure your muscles can get through a whole day of sitting behind the desk:

  1. Take mini-breaks.  Every 30-45 minutes, take 3 - 5 minutes to change position. For example, refill your water bottle, or stand while talking on the phone. A good rule of thumb, for every 10 minutes working, take a minute of rest.
  2. Don’t wait until the end of the day to take a break.  Stagger breaks through the morning, midday and afternoon.  If you wait until afternoon, your muscles are already tight and sore.  Taking breaks earlier may prevent them from getting sore in the first place.
  3. Hydrate.  Most folks (including me) will start their day off with coffee or soda – some caffeine to wake drink_water.jpgup.  Some folks also have another boost later in the afternoon.  This can leave you dehydrated. Make sure that you are drinking lots of water through the day.  I recommend getting a giant size cup or water bottle (32 oz).  Drink one before lunch and another before leaving. Be sure to only drink water – not soda or juice.  No reason to drink the extra calories when we are just trying to give our bodies the water it needs.
  4. When there is a problem, fix it right away! Too many people wait until they need to miss work, or take medication, or even need surgery – before they realize they have a problem with their body. If you hurt regularly, even if it is mild to moderate, that is a sign there may be a problem.  The milder the problem, the easier it is to fix.

The earlier treatment starts, the less pain you will have. For most people, mild alterations to their workplace or posture can relieve a lifetime of painful muscles. For some patients, their problems can be resolved in a handful of sessions. For our patients who have waited months or years, they can find relief too, but the longer the pain has lingered, the longer it will take to treat.