Does your Neck Hurt? Having Headaches? Is your Smart Phone to blame?
Recently my daughter asked how old I was when I got my first "cell phone." I'm going to age myself with this story but here goes.... I proceeded to tell her that I got my first "cell phone" when I was in Physical Therapy Graduate School and that my "cell phone" was in a mini suitcase of sorts and that when I got it, I thought it was the coolest thing... I could literally TALK ON THE PHONE IN THE CAR!!!!
She stared at me so utterly perplexed and then asked how I talked on the phone before I got this "suitcase." I proceeded to explain that when I was her age, we talked on a phone that was secured to the wall WITH A CORD!!!!! She looked at me in disbelief "YOU MEAN YOU HAD TO STAND BY THE WALL TO TALK ON THE PHONE???? HOW DID YOU TEXT????" My how our lives have changed....
Chances are that you probably haven’t given much thought to how your neck and back are faring in the era of the smart phone, but studies show that you most certainly should. It’s practically a reflex these days to pull out our smart phones when we’re standing in line, sitting at the airport or riding the subway. And while it’s great that we rarely need to venture beyond our pockets for entertainment, our bodies are beginning to retaliate—and mourn the pre-texting days. So, what exactly are these contemporary conveniences doing to our bodies?
A surgeon-led study that published in Surgical Technology International assessed what impact surgeons’ head and neck posture during surgery—a posture similar to that of smart-phone texters—has on their cervical spines. With each degree that our heads flex forward (as we stare at a screen below eye level), the strain on our spines dramatically increases. When an adult head (that weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position) tilts forward at 30 degrees, the weight seen by the spine climbs to a staggering 40 pounds, according to the study.
How pervasive of a problem is this? According to the study, the average person spends 14 to 28 hours each week with their heads tilted over a laptop, smart phone or similar device. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 700 to 1400 hours of strain and stress on our spines. As a result, the number of people dealing with headaches, achy necks and shoulders and other associated pain has skyrocketed. Trained to address postural changes and functional declines, physical therapists are well-versed in treating this modern-day phenomenon, widely known as “text neck.”
Over time, this type of poor posture can have a cumulative effect, leading to spine degeneration, pinched nerves and muscle strains. Recently I had a woman tell me that she had degeneration and "stenosis" in her neck and lamented that nothing could be done to alleviate her pain. Unfortunately, this misconception is pervasive in our society. Patients begin to "put up" with the headaches and neck pain and find themselves not able to enjoy the activities they love because they feel it is a normal part of aging and just something to be put up with.
What I can tell you is that there is relief in sight... you don't have to put up with the pain and headaches any longer. You don't have to miss the activities you love any more.
Our therapists at Britt Zink Physical Therapy Services LLC are credentialed in the McKenzie Method and specialize in the evaluation and treatment of neck and back pain. Our therapists can provide you with an individualized plan to get relief of your neck pain and headaches without injections, medications or surgery.
Exercise is an important part of taking care of our spines as we age, but what we do when we’re not in motion matters, too. So next time you pick up your smart phone or curl up with your e-reader, do a quick check of your head and neck posture. Your body will thank you for years to come.
Call our clinic today to discuss how we can help you with your neck pain and headaches!
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