returning to work after breast cancer
Marian Barnick

Marian Barnick

Registered Kinesiologist and Human Movement Specialist


If you’re using muscles that you shouldn’t be using, if you’re sitting in postures that you shouldn’t be using, then that’s where the problems are going to lie. 


Any chair that you adjust, any desk height that you change, any keyboard tray that you have installed isn’t going to help you if you’re not in that right position.



So that’s what I want to help you with today because when we’re looking at decreasing pain in the office and when we’re looking at how you’re going to get rid of the aches and the pains and stop shifting and feeling better in the office, we need those neutral postures. 


We need to see where you are aligned and we are all different.


That’s the thing. We all have different alignments. We all have different length of torsos, lengths of legs, length of our arms, how we reach, how our neck is positioned. 


So we want to take a look at your neutral postures because if you’re not using those, that’s where the muscle imbalances come in. That’s where you are going to have a certain set of muscles that aren’t balanced, whether it’s right or left or front or back with the other set of muscles.

neutral posture

And they get overused and they get tired. 


And they get tight. 

And then when you need to use them, they are weak because you’ve had them firing all day in the office. 

So when we’re talking about the shoulder today, when we’re talking about how we’re set up with that, and we’re looking at the alignment here.


What we want to really look at is that shoulder joint, because that’s the picture I showed you today. If we look at just the skeleton here, that shoulder joint is hanging straight down. 



shoulder range of motion


That’s where it’s at rest. That’s the body alignment. So anytime we move it out of that position, we have to use muscles to do that.


And that’s what’s happening is we are using muscles to integrate out of that neutral posture.


 Because neutral posture truly is using your lowest amount of energy. Because let’s face it, we want to have a life. After 5:00 PM you want to get out of the office. You are telling yourself, Yes, I should be working out, I should go for a walk.


Or you know, you have to make dinner, take the kids somewhere. 


Any of those things after five o’clock, you need to have that life. But if you use all your energy in the office, you just wanna lie down and watch Netflix.


And we don’t want that. We don’t want you to use all the energy in the office, and every time you use a muscle for something that you don’t need, your body’s using extra energy, and we don’t want that.

breast cancer fatigue


So we want the least amount of energy, the least amount of force, which means we’re gonna limit the muscles that we’re using throughout the day.


 That’s what neutral postures is all about. That’s giving you that relaxed posture. Mobility, when you need it, you gotta be able to move. You gotta reach for that Starbucks or your phone or whatever it is you need on the office, the files you put on the floor, you want that mobility.


You wanna get to those areas, but you don’t want it to hurt each time that you do that. So we need to have the muscle strength and the mobility when we need it, but I don’t want you to spend eight hours a day using those muscles that you don’t have to use. 


That’s the whole point. 


So if I bring up and look at a couple pictures of, and I grab this just from my files, if you’re looking at those postures, do you want those shoulders hanging straight down to the side, as we saw with the skeleton. Arms in neutral are not using any muscles. They are at rest. 


That is what you want. So if you can do the majority of your work with your arms down to your side, it’s gonna save you energy and save you aches and pains. 


Because what happens, and you can try it with me, I’m gonna back up a little bit here, but, and I’ll go to the side just to show.

neutral postures


So if I have my arms at my side, this is gravity just working on my arm. It’s hanging down to the side. 


But if I reach for the desk, if I reach for the mouse, if I reach for the keyboard, what’s holding my arm up? 

I’m using muscles. 

I’m using energy to hold my arm up and it can’t last forever. It’s going to get tired, so what am I gonna look to do?


I’m either gonna look to rest it on the chair, which means I might be twisting my back to get there. I might rest it on the desk, which means I might be leaning forward. 


So the neutral postures not only affect the shoulder that we’re talking about today, but the body is attached. All of the pieces play together, and that’s why evaluating you and your shoulder position is going to be super helpful. And it doesn’t matter if it’s sitting or standing, it doesn’t matter how that’s working. 


I want you to have that neutral posture no matter what. Here’s another client of mine where we are setting up a sit stand keyboard tray for her. We look at that arm coming straight down the side of the body.


Ah, that is awesome to me. That means that that shoulder is not pulling on any other muscles. It means she can keep her neck in alignment and it means it’s just a little bend in that elbow to reach to that keyboard tray.  

So those shoulders are relaxed. Save energy, and not having aches and pains in those muscles.

sit stand workstation


That’s what’s super important and that’s what I’m looking at for you. 


So when we look at this posture here, are we looking at someone who’s got neutral posture?


Are we looking at an arm out here and then relaxing on the desk or at the side and using no muscle? This is a no on this one. This is not a good biomechanical posture because it’s not in alignment with her body.


Not only is she reaching for the mouse, but we’ve also got issues with the back trying to get to the desk. We’ve got that wrist in there and we’re gonna talk about that too, because when you start correcting your postures, you may say, okay, I’m gonna sit up nice and straight. I’m gonna have my arms at my sides.

But we also have to look that that wrist posture now is not taking you out of alignment.

lymphedema risk factor

Everything is attached, and that’s what I wanna look at with you, is making sure that we’re not causing other aches and pains either. 

That is important, but look at that arm out to the side. If I asked you for one minute, for two minutes, for five minutes, for eight hours to hold your arm out here, you’d be grumpy.


You would not be happy with me. Chances are you wouldn’t do it. But you’re doing it for work.


Why are we doing it for work? 



You’re changing postures and you’re gonna put your back out because you’re going to lean because that arm is getting tired. We do not want that. We want you to feel comfortable. We want you to be aligned because what we’re looking at here is.


The body working together and integrating to decrease those aches and pains to get rid of the tightness. 


And those neutral postures are what’s going to help. 


So you don’t compensate, you don’t find other ways to support that arm by leaning and changing how you’re moving. And those imbalances are what’s causing the weakness in the muscles.


The imbalances are what’s causing you to use certain muscles more than others. And they get crampy, they get sore, they get achy. You may feel the poofiness in your hand, the numbness and pins and needles. 


We do not want that at all. 


This is what we wanna do is have those neutral postures because it’s going to neurologically stimulate the muscles, stimulate the body to say, Hey, this is where I wanna be.


If you do have questions, I want you to email me or send me a DM. 


If you need some information on body alignment, I want you to reach out to me because as I said, there’s three simple steps. Evaluate and then integrate and then align. 


If you’re missing that first step,  if you’re missing the evaluation, then you don’t know what you need.


Let’s feel good and have energy after five o’clock.

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