Is your Winter Posture Causing Your Neck Pain?

Shortly after we were married, Bec and I spent 4 years travelling all over the world.  The sights we saw together were, quite simply, unbelievable.  One of the places that we “settled” in for about 9 months was Ystrad Mynach, a small mining village in the Welsh Valleys.  It was so typically Welsh and everyone had a very Welsh name.  In fact, when I would go out to the waiting room to call my next patient through I would call out the patient’s name:  “Owen Jones” and 3 men would all stand up!  Next I would say, “Owen GARETH Jones”, and only one of the men would sit down.  As you can imagine this was very embarrassing, particularly if I had already met the patient and couldn’t remember what he looked like.  I soon learnt to say “Owen Jones, born 1964”!

The reason I am bringing up our time as physios at Ystrad Mynach was that recently I was reminded of a pet peeve of mine.  There I was talking in the school yard waiting for my beautiful little cherubs to come out of their classes and I noticed that the woman talking with me was so cold that she was standing there with her neck hunched forward and her shoulders pulled up towards her ears.  I remember often spending a whole treatment session loosening off a Welshman’s sore and stiff neck and then watching him walk outside into the full force of a snowy, blustery Welsh winter’s day  and just undo all the good work we had just achieved.  They soon got used to the mad Aussie leaning out the window and shouting “drop your shoulders down!”

So I turned to my friend in the school yard and gently pointed out that the posture she was adopting would probably lead to a sore neck and possibly bring on one of her headaches.  Her response was very enlightening.  She was amazed that she was holding herself that rigid and was unaware that she was holding her shoulders so elevated.  After forcibly telling her body to relax her shoulders she felt instantly better, not just in her body, but also it helped to relax her busy mind.  The real kicker was that she didn’t even feel that cold, her body was just reinforcing a bad habit that it had learned.

So as winter starts to set in for us up on our wonderful mountain, and we start to feel the cold more and more, please remember how important your posture is.  Throughout the day try to give your body a little scan and assess how you are holding yourself.  When you initially step outside make a conscious effort to keep your shoulders down and your chin tucked in.  As Emily, our Pilates instructor here at Physique says, “imagine holding a peach lightly between your chin and chest and take your shoulder blades down towards your jean’s back pockets.”  It is amazing what a difference a small change in posture can make.

Enjoy the change of season.  I love winter up here.  It’s magical and it reminds us of some very funny times that we once had in the Welsh Valleys.