Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Neck & Repetitive Strain Injuries

An overview of RSI and some solutions ...

"Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) from computer use or desk work can cause headaches, eyestrain, and pain through the neck, shoulders, arms and back. "The Neck" is the first part of a series taking a closer look at the mechanism of injury and specific injury prevention techniques for particular pain areas.

Anatomy

The neck is made up of seven cervical vertebral bones. The vertebrae, when stacked upon each other, form a bony tunnel that protects the spinal cord as it runs up the back and attaches to the base of the brain. Discs between the bones act as shock-absorbing cushions. Nerve branches come off the spinal cord and pass between gaps in the bony stack to provide power to the muscles and sensation to skin segments of the shoulder, arm and hand. Arteries, responsible for blood supply to the tissues, also pass through gaps along with the nerves.

The cervical spine supports the skull. The muscles of the neck work to turn, rotate or tilt the head. This positions the head in space and allows us to have almost a complete range of vision. Since the head can weigh between 10 and 20 pounds, the head positioned over the cervical spine is the equivalent of balancing a bowling ball on a stack of blocks. When the cervical vertebrae are in proper alignment, the head is centered over the shoulders and gravity works to support and hold the head in place. The farther forward the ball (head) is in front of the blocks (cervical spine), the less stable and efficient is its function.

RSI

Most often, neck pain and tightness is postural in nature. With repetitive desk or computer work, the head can gradually assume a position forward of its proper alignment over the shoulders. The more that the head creeps forward, the harder gravity pushes the head down, and the more rounded the shoulders become. This causes muscular strain, promotes muscular tightness and weakness, pinches the nerves and arteries, and compresses the cervical discs. Neck pain, shoulder pain, and headaches are often the result. In more serious cases, arm fatigue and weakness, impaired circulation, and numbness and tingling can occur. Any extreme or sharp pain should be evaluated by a physician who can check for other medical causes including arthritis, osteoporosis, herniated discs, and meningitis.

RSI Prevention for Neck Pain

Neutral Neck Positioning

• Maintain a neutral spine while working and at rest. The head should be stacked over the cervical spine with the shoulders relaxed.

• Use a lumbar support while seated to help the spine maintain its natural curves.

Sleeping

• Don’t use thick pillows that push the head forward.

• Don’t sleep on your stomach (this position pushes the head back)."    (Continued via BellaOnlinie)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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