As a licensed massage therapist, I treat many different ailments and conditions. Some issues that I see cannot be helped, that is, the issue is of a systemic concern and no amount of awareness or sensitivity to prevention can keep the ailment from occurring. Besides doing the best to take care of the body, mind, and spirit, an injury can happen to any of us. No amount of preventative care is enough because injuries and pathologies do not discriminate. Athletes in their prime can be stricken as easy as the elderly, it cannot be helped. However, most of the time life is not a bummer and sometimes the things that occur to us can be helped and sometimes doing something simple is all that it takes to remain healthy and injury free.
Sitting on your wallet:
I keep my wallet in my front pocket not only by habit but also as a health consideration. Keeping my wallet and my phone in my front pocket prevents me from being an easy victim of theft on the subways and streets of New York City. It also allows me to sit down pain free and avoid any other postural issues. When we sit down and have something in our back pocket, be it wallet or our phone, it can hurt our posture and lead to recurring back, neck and shoulder pain. When one butt cheek is higher than the other, you end up twisting the pelvis and hiking the hip which leads to a host of other postural issues. The spine becomes misaligned, the shoulders slump, and then you experience neck and shoulder pain.
What can you do? For starters, use your back pocket only when you are standing. If you are going to sit, move whatever is in your back pocket to the front or put it in your bag. Just don’t overstuff the bag because…
Carrying your laptop on your shoulder:
Living in New York, I understand the necessity to carry our things with us. Most of us do not have cars so therefore, our messenger bag, laptop case, purse or handbag becomes our trunk, back seat, and glove compartment. Additionally, most of the time in my own treatments, I notice that one shoulder is elevated higher than the other. It is usually the non-dominant shoulder that is more tight and elevated also. Why is that? The simplest explanation for upper shoulder and neck pain of the non-dominant side of the body is overuse. After all, we keep our dominant hand free to open doors, speak on our phone, hold our Frappuccino’s, etc. The other arm therefore carries the brunt of the load. Consequently, we maintain our bags on our shoulders by lifting our shoulders to keep our bags from falling down our arm. Over time, the muscles of the shoulder develop tightness from over contraction or being used for too long.
What can you do? Switch sides! If you carry your bag on your left shoulder, move it to the right sometimes. I usually carry my bag on one side for one trip and then on the other for the return trip. The best alternative however, is to use both shoulders and carry a back pack. Go old school with your back pack however and use both straps. If you try to remain hip by carrying it on one shoulder, you are not helping yourself.
Texting and typing:
I get it. We have to communicate with each other. We have to work. The mechanics of texting or typing calls for stationary shoulders, stationary back and rapidly moving fingers. Our fingers utilize smaller muscles and are therefore susceptible to overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, and tendonitis.
What can you do? I recommend stretching your forearms and learning to text with the other hand and above all know when to stop and take a break. The easiest way to avoid an overuse injury is to take breaks and allow the body to recover.
While some accidents occur and injuries result, these are just a few of the ways that we can prevent injuries before they happen. Besides doing our best to take care of ourselves, eating right, maintaining our strength and flexibility, looking both ways before we cross the street, not running with scissors, etc., receiving a regular massage is a good idea. Above all else, while embracing everything that recent technology has given us to make our lives easier, welcome brief respites as well and most importantly, if it hurts, for goodness sake, stop what you are doing and let common sense carry the day.
Kip Yates, LMT was trained at the Swedish Institute in New York City and is New York State and Texas State licensed. He is owner and operator of Massage Refresh in New York City where he provides Swedish wellness and recuperative Deep Tissue massage that encompasses myofascial release and trigger point therapy. Kip lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children and also practices at Physiofitness Physical Therapy in Soho.