Neck Pain at Work

Neck Pain at Work

Extended periods of sitting at work can lead to many different painful symptoms in
the body. A common area of complaint is the neck. Neck pain can be due to several
different mechanisms, the most common being postural related. In this blog post we
will discuss general neck anatomy, what structures may be contributing to pain, and
some simple strategies to help combat these symptoms.

Some Basic Anatomy Explained..
Our spine is made up of 3 sections: the cervical spine (neck), the thoracic spine (mid
back) and lumbar spine (low back). Each section has various structures (muscles,
ligaments, etc.) attached to it and various nerves/vessels exiting the spinal cord at
each level. The natural curve of the cervical and lumbar spine is called lordosis and
the curve of the thoracic spine is called kyphosis. When sitting with poor posture for
extended periods, the thoracic spine can become stiff and rounded forward. This
results in a greater resting cervical lordosis, forward head posture and forward
rounding of the shoulders, known as “Upper-Crossed Syndrome”.

Upper-Crossed Syndrome is defined as alternating groups of tight/weak muscles in
a crossing pattern (see image). This posture can also lead to other injuries with
certain activities (such as weight training). Certain muscles become weak, including
the deep neck flexors, rhomboids, and lower trapezius. The muscles that are tight
tend to be the pain generating structures. These include the levator scapulae, upper
trapezius, and pectoralis major/minor. Stretching these specific muscle groups can
help alleviate some symptoms at work, but they may not be the only aspect that
needs to be addressed in the system. Seeking care from a health professional may be
warranted to create a treatment plan specific to your individual needs (e.g. doing an
ergonomic assessment of your work station).

How to Fight Back!
Frequent breaks from sitting should be taken throughout the day to give your body
a break from static sitting posture. This can be implemented several ways to make
sure your posture breaks are met, but productivity does not suffer. One simple way
is to drink more water (preferably out of a small to medium sized water bottle). This
way you will have to get up to fill up the water bottle more frequently, creating
posture breaks. Some people prefer to just stand up and move around every 30-50
minutes. There are always new ideas and strategies to help with this.
The ergonomics of your workspace should also be looked at to determine if there is
anything that can be improved upon. The image below is taken from the Ontario
Chiropractic Association website and shows some general guidelines to follow with
regards to ergonomics in the workplace (in regards to sitting).

Standing desks have become popular because they allow you to go from sitting to
standing while still continuing to work. However, this option is not for everyone and
is not always feasible.

Don’t Forget to Stretch!
As mentioned above, stretching can be beneficial to help alleviate symptoms while
at work. Below are stretches for the 3 major tight muscles involved in neck pain
related to upper-crossed syndrome. I have also included one drill for thoracic spine
mobility. All of these can easily be done at the office. The stretches should all be held
for 20-30 seconds and can be performed as needed throughout the day.

Upper Trapezius
The upper portion of the trapezius can become dominant over the lower portion
with upper-crossed syndrome. The main functions of the upper portion of the
trapezius muscle are to elevate the scapulae (shoulder blades), bend the head to the
side (when only one side activates) and extend the neck (when both sides activate).

1. Bend the head to the opposite side of trap you wish to stretch (stretching left
trap, bend head to the right).
2. Use the hand on the same side to pull the head further into the stretch
3. The above may be enough, but to increase the stretch, put the arm on same
side as the stretch behind your back

Levator Scapulae
This muscle is often very tight with upper-crossed syndrome and can feel like a
painful knot deep in the middle of the upper trapezius. The muscle actually begins at
the transverse processes of the first 4 cervical vertebrae (directly related to cervical
spine function) and inserts on the scapula (shoulder blade) on the inside top corner.

The major function is to not only extend (working together) and bend the neck (only
one side activating), but also to elevate the scapula.

1. Bend head to the side and rotate towards opposite armpit of the side you
wish to stretch (bend and rotate to the right if you wish to stretch the left)
2. Use hand on the same side to pull further into the stretch
3. This may be enough, but to increase the stretch, lift up the arm on the side of
the stretch and place hand behind neck

Pectoralis Minor
This muscle is underneath the larger pectoralis major. This muscle stabilizes the
scapula as well as contributes to its movement. With upper-crossed syndrome, this
muscle will shorten and pull the shoulders forward.

1. Set up in a classic pectoral stretch, with the side you wish to stretch by the
2. Move in closer to the wall so that your armpit is 3-4 inches from the wall
3. Slowly slide the hand up the wall and hold (stretch should be felt deep under
the pectoralis major).

Thoracic Spine Mobility
How well the thoracic spine moves needs to be addressed when your occupation
involves sitting for extended periods of time. There are many different drills that
can be done to work on this, but the below drill can be performed sitting at your
desk at work. You are going to fully round the shoulders and mid back into full
flexion, bending the head forward. Then slowly extend through the spine (pull the
chest forward), extend the head back and bring the arms back with your hands
turned out. This can be repeated for 5-6 slow repetitions. This is similar to the pose
in yoga cat-cow.

I hope you find these strategies useful to help with neck pain you may be
experiencing at work! For more information or to learn more about the treatment
options offered at Catalyst Health, feel free to contact any of the practitioners or
myself for more information. Thanks for reading!

Dr. Jonathon Perry DC
Functional Integrated Acupuncture 
Athletic Movement Assessment 
Fascial Abrasion Technique 
Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization - Exercise 1/Weightlifting 

1. Muscolino, J. (2015). Upper crossed syndrome. Journal of the Australian Traditional-
Medicine Society, 21(2), 80.
2. Silva, A. G., Punt, T. D., Sharples, P., Vilas-Boas, J. P., & Johnson, M. I. (2009). Head posture
and neck pain of chronic nontraumatic origin: a comparison between patients and pain-free
persons. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation,90(4), 669-674.
3. Cunha, A. C. V., Burke, T. N., França, F. J. R., & Marques, A. P. (2008). Effect of global
posture reeducation and of static stretching on pain, range of motion, and quality of life in
women with chronic neck pain: a randomized clinical trial.Clinics, 63(6), 763-770.


How do we prevent injuries?

With the arrival of summer, we are all grinding out our fitness routines. Catalyst workouts, outdoor runs, classes, name it. Then BOOM! We get injured. 

Nothing pumps the brakes on your fitness progress (and that summer body) like being hit with an injury. So then the question is… how do we best prevent injuries? 

Is it warming up? Is it cooling down? Is it stretching?

What’s interesting is that you don’t see other species having to stretch before performing an explosive task in order to avoid injury. Imagine watching Discovery Channel and then you see this:

“Here we have the cheetah hunting its prey in the open savannah planes…wait, there he goes chasing the wild gazelle, the cheetah’s hot on his tail, he’s closing in…and oh no…he’s pulled up…he’s pulled a hamstring!”

We don't hear that because it's not all about stretching.  It’s not all about this idea that we need to warm up and cool down. Those are definitely components that we can take advantage of to help keep our body safe, but it's really about how we live our day-to-day lives. It’s about how we stay ready.

Do you know the difference between Mobility and Flexibility? 

As a simple test, try to accumulate ten minutes at the bottom of a squat. Feet just inside hip width apart and flat on the floor, neutral spine and chest proud. Now stay there for 10-min. If you are unable to get into this position, or have trouble staying there…then your body is not functioning optimally.  And for the record, holding this position while white-knuckled and red-faced doesn’t mean you have completed the test successfully. If you’re not relaxed and breathing normally – then you don’t own the position. 

Flexibilityis the passive ability of your soft tissue (muscles) to stretch. 

Mobility, on the other hand is much more important. It can be called one’s “ACTIVE usable range of motion”. Mobility contains many elements that contribute to movement with full range of motion - including muscle tissue, joint capsules, and motor control. Flexibility merely is a component of mobility.

Remember This!
Flexibility:length of your muscle
Mobility:how your joint actually moves

Therefore, a person with great mobility is able to perform functional movement patterns with no restrictions in the range of motion (ROM). A flexible person may or may not have the core strength, balance, or coordination to perform the same functional movements as the person with great mobility. It’s basically useless to have a high level of flexibility if your mobility is constricted by other factors.

Stiff upper back while driving? Tight hips?
So, why should you care? Beyond just working out in the gym, both mobility and flexibility affect your joint health in everyday life as well. Think about it this way: if you have a general mobility problem that affects how you move, your body isn’t going to be functioning in the way that it’s supposed to. Over time you can suffer more wear-and-tear and general discomfort. Also, when you’re exercising you are essentially performing these faulty movements under higher intensity and greater stress, so painful injuries can accumulate over time. 

Mobility is an indication of how well we can actually move as humans. 

The most common areas of reduced mobility occur in the hips, shoulders, ankles and upper back. 

“Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes it permanent”
- author unknown (about a thousand people take credit for this quote…I am not one of them). 

True mobility requires actual movement in order to train the joints, musculature and even the central nervous system. To fix an issue of mobility, you need motion and consistency. Adding in mobility work on a daily basis is the key to being in a state of readiness. 

To find out more on this topic, and how to address your specific concerns, feel free to reach out to one of the mobility specialists at Catalyst Health.

Dr. Craig McNamee 
BSc. Hon (Kin), DC, ART, CSCS.
Active Release Techniques Provider
Medical Acupuncture Provider
Conditioning Specialist

How To Overcome Catalyst Health Challenge Anxiety

How To Overcome Catalyst Health Challenge Anxiety
By: Niko Mullings
Inspirational quotes by: Yoda
Today is the day you are to perform the Catalyst Health “Challenge” - that is until you feel anxiety creep up behind you…

Is it because you know the infamous white board is about to display your score to your peers? Or is it your mind questioning whether you have the mental and physical tolerance needed to complete the task ahead? Regardless, your legs begin to shake, your stomach starts to turn, and you begin searching for reasons why you are going to tell your Catalyst trainer today is not the day.

If this all sounds too familiar, here are some key insights and tips to help guide you through the next Catalyst challenge.

“Named must your fear be before banish it you can."
- Yoda

PREPARATION“Perfect practice” makes perfect. Your trainers know your strengths, weaknesses, and how to get the best out of you. The first step is recognizing the benefits of competition. Associate the challenge as another stepping-stone towards your growth in fitness. From that positive insight your team will include exercise progressions and technical tips specific to the challenge at hand. In addition add proper nutrition, mobility, flexibility, with strength endurance to the preparation phase. 

“Patience, you must learn patience!”
- Yoda

The battle is won before the first move is made. This is where your trainer will learn the key objectives to your success by modifying warm-ups and adding specific exercises to your session. Achieving the best possible score for you involves pushing the boundaries of your strengths. Whether you prefer to max out from the start of a challenge and hold on with conditioning or control a steady pace and empty the tank on the last movement - you will succeed. 

“If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are… a different game you should play.”
- Yoda

Positive insight on numbers, movement, and feelings during exertion will develop consistency. Decreasing the chance of errors by being specific to visualizing the goal you desire to achieve. See your movements with as many details as possible. Keep the visualizations simple with a clear direction. 

“Feel the force.”
- Yoda

Drive is the source that influences the need to be motivated towards a goal. This will go hand in hand with the priority factor to obtaining that achievement. Setting a date and time to complete the challenge will reduce anxiety and increase intention. Motivation is mainly grouped by intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic rewards are personal with a clear association to the emotional value of the goal. While, extrinsic rewards can be measured or received as a gift to completing the goal, for an example points on the board and recognition from the team!
“Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.”
- Yoda

The day has arrived for you to complete the challenge. You have prepared, strategized, and visualized the task. With your clear and direct drive, you will have a positive result. As you warm-up repeat the visualization techniques and strategy with your trainer. Once you start, clear all thoughts and focus on exercises to hit those target goals. Pain will come, fatigue will join but that won’t stop your movement. Accept it. Conquer it. 

Looking forward to seeing your results on the board.

“Do or do not. There is no try.”
- Yoda

How to Crush Your Summer Running Goals

How to Crush Your Summer Running Goals

Believe it or not summer is fast approaching. Spring is a great time to start taking your workouts outdoors. One of the easiest outdoor workout options? Back-to-basics running. As simple as that sounds running can actually be one of the most challenging and effective workouts: great for improving aerobic and anaerobic conditioning as well as toning your legs and helping to shed extra winter weight. 

Want to improve your running this summer but don’t know where to start? 

Don’t worry: we’ve got you covered.

Step #1) Make a Goal.
To see an improvement in your running you need a measureable goal. If you are new to running I would suggest a simple endurance goal (i.e. building up the stamina to run for 30 minutes without stopping). If you are a seasoned runner I suggest signing up for a specific race to work on improving distance, speed, or both. Make the goal. Make sure it is realistic. Set a timeline & hit the ground running.

Step #2) Make a Plan.
The plan will directly relate to your specific goal but if the goal is running-related you need to be hitting the pavement at least 3x/week. Ideally one run should be for distance, one should be for speed and another should be interval-based training. If your goal is to run a 10k you should aim to complete one distance run/week (10+ km ). Don’t stress about the pace – just run without stopping to get used to the distance. In addition to the distance run add in one 5km/week (at race pace – push yourself to run at your goal speed) + one interval workout to improve sprint pace and hill endurance. 

Step #3) Train Off the Track.
YES you need to clock kilometers to improve your running but you also need to continue with your strength training if you want to avoid injury and really see results. Areas to focus on: quads, glutes (max AND med), hamstrings, core. Stretching and mobility are also essential to avoid injury. Be sure to do some dynamic stretches before a long run and focus on more static holds as part of your cool down. 

Step #4) Fuel Yourself Appropriately.
I see countless clients who begin a running program and feel that they have been granted the right to eat unlimited amounts of food (especially carbohydrates). I have seen all of these clients gain weight and body fat despite clocking tens of thousands of kilometers each month. YES you need carbs to perform optimally but NO you do not need to be pounding bagels at the same rate that you are pounding the pavement. Trial and error is key when determining what works best for your energy and your digestive system but ideally make sure to consume some easily digestible carbs pre-run as well as some slower digesting carbs post. Think bananas and steel cut oats NOT candy and carbonera. 

Step #5) Rest.
Just like any training program rest days are just as important as training days. Aim to run amaximumof 4x/week. Use the other days for strength training and active recovery. 

Need more guidance? Ask your trainer for help with your goal; see your chiro for mobility exercises; chat with me about sports nutrition for runners and book your post-race massage – you’ll deserve it. 

By: Danielle Bossin-Hardy
BA, PTS, CNP. (Hons)

2018: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018! What a journey it’s been; full of laughter and tears, falls and triumphs, failures and successes. Just like you, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs throughout this game called life, and just like you, I’ve made many a New Year’s resolution too.

A resolution is a firm, solemn decision to create change. It may revolve around health and fitness, your job, your relationships, or any other aspect of your life. But in it’s roots, it is a commitment. So why is it that most New Year’s resolutions end up failing?

There are many reasons people can’t stick to their resolutions, including setting overly ambitious goals to getting derailed by small failures. Setting too many resolutions may also make it difficult to focus on what you are trying to achieve. Underestimating the difficulty of keeping a resolution may also be one reason why we fail to keep them.

We’ve all been there. Starting hot out of the gates on January 1st, and finding that a few weeks later, we aren’t being accountable. Falling off the wagon and trying to get back on is a tough process. It can be discouraging and exhausting. Often times we just end up dropping the ball and saying, “Next year will be my year.”

This is the mind set that “future you” will be stronger than “current you”; more resolute, more driven, more compelled to stick to your commitments. It’s the belief that another year of battling obstacles will give you the characteristics you need to push through your goals.

I find I hear a lot of “New Year, New Me” quotes being thrown out around this time of year, but in a few months when I look around, I see a lot of “New Year, Same Me’s” trudging through life.

I’m here to tell you that change starts now.

And it starts with being accountable. 
Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results. It also dictates that the responsibility be placed on you, No one is more powerful than you when it comes to achieving your goals. And guess what, no one can do it for you. This is where it’s important to really dig deep and understand why you are setting out to achieve these goals. It comes down to motivation. What is motivating you?

Intrinsic motivation is when you do something because you enjoy it or find it interesting, while extrinsic motivation is doing something for external rewards or to avoid negative consequences. Both types of motivation have a place in society, but studies show that people are more likely to stick to a task, invest more time in a task, and be more successful if they are intrinsically motivated. That means sticking to a resolution for you, not for something or someone else.

It’s important to look at a resolution as an opportunity rather then something hanging over your head, which is what being intrinsically motivated will help you achieve.

Common resolutions I see revolve around health and fitness. People committing to losing weight, eating better, quitting smoking. “What are the reasons for these goals?” These is a good question to b asking yourself. IF its to look better for someone else rather than to live a healthier lifestyle, the chances are that your resolutions are more likely to fail.

But by creating sustainable change directed towards intrinsically motivated resolutions, we can be more successful.

That leads to another vital point: sustainability.

The changes we make in order to achieve our resolutions should be something that we can continue over a prolonged period of time. Most resolutions require a lifestyle change, and no one can create a large change like that without first making smaller, incremental changes. For example, if your resolution is “losing weight” then making small changes to your daily habits will help jump-start you on a sustainable path. On the other hand, making drastic changes that overhaul your entire life may lead to a less successful attempt towards meeting your goals. An example of a small change would be taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator, or eating one plant based meal a day. Each small step will add up to create larger change.

Change starts now. Being accountable, intrinsically motivated, and creating sustainable changes will help you stick to your resolutions. Don’t take a back seat towards becoming a better you. 

Be a Catalyst for change. 


 Dr. Danny Dulay