Dyslexia – a pain in the neck?
by Colin Baird, Genius Within coach
Is it a coincidence that I see a lot of people with neuro-diverse conditions like Dyslexia who complain of back pain? Actually – not really! Whether we like it or not, we all instinctively change the way that we sit when we’re concentrating hard on something. If you’re a driver, think what happens when you’re driving in bad weather. It’s highly likely that you’ll need to take more frequent breaks, your back might get sore from hunching forward, or your hands might become sore from gripping the steering wheel tighter.
Whether it’s driving in snow, struggling to hear something, or having to focus all of your attention on a long and wordy email, the effect is similar. For those of us who work at a desk, when we have to concentrate on something, it’s rare that we’ll lean back. Most of us will lean forward, putting more weight on our elbows as they rest on the desk and removing support from the backrest of our seat. In fact, the backrest might as well not even be there, when we lean forward it’s as useless as a chocolate teapot – apart from the fact that you can hang your coat on it that is!
The impact of this posture however is that there is more strain placed on the muscles of the neck and shoulders as the weight of our head is suspended over the thing we’re looking at. Fascinating fact – did you know that roughly 8 to 10% of your entire body mass is contained in your head? This also places more strain on the lower back as the muscles have to work harder to support us and the weight of the head.
Placing a muscle group under a constant load for long periods of time is majorly bad news. The technical term for this is ‘static loading’. The effect is similar to holding your arms extended at shoulder height for more than a minute or so. Our arms and shoulders start to feel tired quickly and if the position is held for longer, we might start to feel our muscles ‘burning’. Basically, it hurts!
Pain and discomfort have a detrimental impact on concentration, and therefore productivity, for anybody. If however this is added to by the strain of dealing with a neuro-diverse condition like Dyslexia, things can become much, much harder. Pain triggers a physical response in our body, or at least, that’s what our body would like it to do. If you’re doing something that hurts, the pain serves as a warning to stop doing it! But what if the thing that makes you hurt is the way you’re sitting? What if the way you’re sitting is because you’re trying desperately to concentrate as there are loads of people talking around you? Get the picture?
Actively paying attention to our posture within the workplace is important for all of us. Our body is designed to support itself through movement, not sitting in one place for 8 hours. So the next time you find yourself struggling with a task, take a minute to notice how you’re sitting. If you’re leaning forward at your desk, stand up and move around for a wee bit. Sit back in your chair, lean back so that your back is in contact with the backrest. You might even indulge yourself in a minute long breathing exercise, but notice how your chair supports you when you do this. The backrest is called the backrest for a reason – it’s there to help your back rest!
Pay attention to your posture and let’s stop the challenges of neuro-diversity from causing a pain in the neck!