Our Professions Can Cause Our Bodies to Hurt…but There is a Solution
by Sue Crossen, CMT/injury & Rehabilitation Therapist
Author: Back Pain Breakthrough and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Breakthrough

I’ll never forget the day I tentatively poked my head around the corner and glimpsed into my office. I knew I had to go in there, but I was afraid. Every time, after being on the computer a few minutes, I’d get burning pains in my upper back. “Get in there and figure out what’s happening,” I yelled to myself. “After all, you’re a therapist!” I marched myself into my office and sat down. I sheepishly put my hands on the keyboard and started typing. Sure enough, in seconds, I saw the culprit behind the pain. I was keeping my right shoulder slightly elevated. Even having a shoulder elevated one-tenth of an inch will eventually cause pain. So, instead of having my mouse and mouse pad on my desk, where they had been from the get-go, I pulled up a chair next to mine and put them down on the seat. That instantly forced me to drop my shoulder down and, presto; the pain in my upper back vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

I know that not everyone has the luxury of pulling a chair up next to theirs. But there are all kinds of tricks for avoiding and ridding your body of aches and pains.

My son, John, is home from college and has a summer job working as a reservation’s agent for a ferry boat that takes people to a quaint little island off of Southern California’s coast. John sits at a long desk, butted up against about six other people, all with headsets and computers.

Just as John was coming through the door, around 10pm one evening, to tell me about the aches and pains he’s starting to get in his neck and shoulders, the ringing of my phone jarred me from my focused trance as I wrapped up my latest article. It was a dear friend of mine, Cathy. “Sue,” she cried in desperation. “In addition to this job driving me crazy, I’m now getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Can you help me?” With John standing in front of me, Cathy on the phone, and another friend who had just called me a few days prior asking what he can do about his shoulder pain that’s arisen from sitting in front of a computer 40 hours a week, I knew it was time to write an article on how to alleviate the aches and pains from our jobs.

The most important factor to realize is why these musculoskeletal conditions (carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, tendinitis, hammertoes, arthritis, etc.) arise in the first place. Some people call me up utterly frightened about their pain. Pain can be truly scary. So many fearful questions pop into people’s minds: “Will this pain ever go away?” “Will I lose my job?” and/or “Will I have to have surgery?” And, believe me, I’m speaking from personal experience. I became a therapist, author, even a radio show host (The Healing Truth – 990 WALE) because I had been a back pain patient for 20 years, even spending the last year in bed. Yet, during that year in bed, I went on a crusade for an answer (read hundreds of books and articles on the back, arthritis, and health in general and interviewed hundreds of physicians and other healthcare practitioners). One day I had an epiphany; the pieces of the puzzle finally fit. I knew the real cause of so many of our aches and pains. Just as the cause became absolutely clear to me, as I now speak to others on the subject, it becomes clear to them. And, it instantly takes the “fear factor” out of the equation. This alone can start reducing stress and anxiety, which in itself can diminish some of the pain.

Think about these questions for a second:

1. Who gets carpal tunnel syndrome?
2. Who gets shin splints?
3. Who gets golfer’s elbow?
4. Who gets tennis elbow?

Besides receiving a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, I had been continuously told by a physical therapist that my back problem was caused by weak muscles. Yet, I had been a gymnast for numerous years (one of the most physically demanding and strength requiring sports). I had muscle on muscle.

I realized that, in virtually every case, all musculoskeletal conditions are simply caused by incessantly contracted muscle tissue. Hard to believe? Keep in mind this fact: Our bodies are almost 70% muscle.

A major clue came from the numerous research studies I examined that illustrated that there was basically no correlation between spinal abnormalities and pain. For instance, at George Washington University 67 people, who never had back pain, were given MRI’s of their spines. Nearly half of these people had a bulging disc, several had herniated discs, many had arthritis, etc. Yet, these people were pain free.

When a person uses a muscle over and over again, the muscle becomes tight. Chronic muscle contraction results in compressed nerves and constricted blood vessels. This, in turn, can bring on symptoms such as tingling, burning, numbness, heaviness, weakness, and cramps. But the problem doesn’t lie within the tendons, the ligaments, the nerves, the bones, or the discs—the problem lies within the muscle.

The solution is simple. Since in almost every single case musculoskeletal conditions are caused by tight muscles, all we need to do is release these short, taut muscles. Hence, when they are released, the problem resolves itself. And, this is the case for practically every single musculoskeletal ailment that affects the body.*

The solution is found in a unique stretching technique and self-massages (to break up any adhesions). It’s beyond the scope of this article to display all the stretches and self-massage techniques. (They can be found in my books at

Three other imperative tips.

Tip One:
As you sit at your desk, check your shoulders. They should be completely down and relaxed at all times. Be careful not to elevate them as you type or work the mouse. Try not to lean forward with just your head. Keep your head on top of your shoulders.

Tip Two:
Take frequent breaks. Sitting and looking at a computer monitor can be hard on your back and neck. Stand up and walk around (even if it’s just for a few steps) whenever you have a chance.

Tip Three:
Check your body throughout the day; make sure you’re not clenching any muscles. If you’re holding tension anywhere in your body, it means muscles are firing (contracting). Shake your body out frequently to make sure there’s no tension.

After being pain free for almost ten years now, along with almost all of my clients, we’re living proof that the many diagnoses we received, from carpal tunnel syndrome, to osteoarthritis, to herniated discs, were not the cause of our pain. Musculoskeletal ailments arise, in almost every single case, from short taut muscles. And many times, it’s the repetitive nature of our professions that lead to the muscles shortening in the first place.

* Please be aware that pain can come from other ailments: tumors, kidney infections, etc. It’s important to go to your physician whenever you have pain to make sure it’s nothing that needs medical attention.

Sue Crossen, CMT/injury & Rehabilitation Therapist
Author: Back Pain Breakthrough and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Breakthrough
Copyright© 2008 by Sue Crossen, All Rights Reserved.