“Text Neck”: Impact of Cell Phones on our Spines

Chances are high that you are reading this on your cell phone.  And if you look around, there are probably also a few people around you with their eyes glued to a device, watching some app, article, or funny video on their phone.  Seeing people with their head tilted forward, hand cradling a 5”+ device is a common scene now– common enough to warm it’s own name: ‘Text Neck’. 

How bad is it?

An average head weighs 10-12 lbs.  With good posture, this 10-12lb force aligns straight down and is supported by your neck and spine, as they were built to do.  However, as the head starts tilting forward and angling down into the ‘text neck posture’, the weight on the neck increases 2-3x.  Imagine holding a 30lb dumbbell with your neck for the length of a funny cat video, or responding to your bosses last minute email request. Not fun.  

Limit the stress

To minimize the damage and stress from text neck, first be aware of your posture and conscious of your position at all times.  As much as possible, keep screens at 90 degrees to your eyes.  This includes your monitors at work as well.  

Take frequent, 10-20 minute breaks between sessions, allowing your neck (and the rest of your body) enough time to stretch and recover.  

Strengthen the core and neck muscles that support your head with targeted exercises that are also great for your body.   Examples include neck rotation exercises and axial retraction exercises. Don’t worry, check out how in the next paragraphs.

Neck rotation exercises

Slowly rotate your head in a counterclockwise position by slowly bringing your head forward as far as you can make sure to not be in a painful position and rotating your neck through all planes of motion until you are back to your starting position again. From your starting position back to your ending position should take 10 seconds, so make sure to do it nice and slowly. I even provided a picture below for some additional instruction.

neck rotation example for text neck

Axial retraction exercise

From a neutral forward facing position slowly tuck your chin in so that your chin comes as close as possible to the front of your neck.  From this position reach up with either hand and put gentle pressure on your chin helping to assist your chin to get it as close as possible to the center of your neck.  You should start to feel a slight stretch in the upper part of your neck.  Hold this position for 15 seconds and repeat 3 times.

axial retraction example for text neck

Neck strengthening exercises

As you see in the diagram below, use your hands to apply equal pressure in all four directions so that you are adding resistance with your hands as you use your neck muscles to push in each particular direction. These are called Isometric Contractions and will help strengthen your neck muscles while limiting chance of injuries since there is no actual movement being performed. Hold each contraction for 2 seconds and perform 10 contractions in each direction to complete 1 set.

neck strengthening example for text neck

Do these exercises a few times a week.  This is not a fix all for everyone but may help reduce some muscle tension caused by staring at your phone all day.

For a more custom or comprehensive treatment plan, contact your local chiropractor or physical therapist to craft a custom treatment plan.

 

Tips for Fighting Your Lower Back Pain

Back pain seems to be something we are all able to relate to after a few years in the workforce.  With long office hours, stationary desk jobs, and more time spent on our computers than ever, back pain is widespread and seemingly inevitable.  As the top reason that new patients come to see us, we’re sharing these helpful tips for fighting your lower back pain and keeping it at bay.

For immediate relief from lower back pain:

  • Find a flat surface. Lying down on a flat, supportive surface provides necessary rest and relief from pressure. The horizontal position helps spinal disks to plump up again and gives them a chance to recover.
  • Use a hot compress on the sprain. Heat therapy helps by dilating blood vessels in and around the lumbar spine, thus increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and helping heal damaged tissues. You can also try a hot shower or hot bath (also called the liquid psychotherapy) to get the same effect of stimulating blood flow while also minimizing the pain messages being sent to the brain.
  • Use a cold compress to numb the area. A cold compress can also be beneficial. Cold therapy reduces inflammation and acts as a local anesthetic that lowers nerve impulses and thus inhibits pain.
  • Take anti-inflammatory OTC pain medication. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication like acetaminophen and other Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) also provide relief by dulling pain caused by muscle ache and stiffness. However, the consumption of OTC pain-killers should not be considered a long term solution due to some associated health risks with long term use.

For longer term back pain relief and recovery:

  • Exercise and strengthen your core. Low back exercises are low impact and easy methods to diminish low back pain. These exercises introduce movement in the vertebral joints, encourage muscle stretching, and result in muscle strengthening.
    • Exercise 1: Pelvic Tilt
      Start on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
      As you exhale, contract your abdominal muscles, pushing your belly button towards the floor and flattening your low back.
      Hold 5 seconds.
      Repeat 10 times.
    • Exercise 2: Knee to chest Stretches
      Start off by lying on the floor.
      Extend one leg straight and pull the other knee to your chest. Hold under the knee joint to protect the kneecap.
      Gently tug that knee toward your nose.
      Switch sides. This stretches the buttocks and lower back of the bent leg and the hip flexor of the straight leg.
    • Exercise 3: Piriformis Stretch
      Cross your left leg over your right so that your left ankle rests on your right knee.
      Use your hands to grab hold of your left knee and pull it gently toward the opposite shoulder.
      You should feel the stretch in your buttocks and hips. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Relax, and then repeat with the other leg.
  • Stretch regularly.
    Stretching reduces tension in muscles supporting the spine and also improves motion and overall mobility. Common stretching exercises such as ‘Knee to Chest’ and ‘Lying Knee Twist’ are particularly helpful.
  • Get enough sleep.
    The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults 7-9 hours sleep each night, which is as effective as taking a 60mg dose of painkiller.
  • Get a good sleep by having a supportive mattress.
    When choosing a mattress, the main consideration should be to check whether or not the mattress is firm enough to support your lower back. For back sleepers, a medium-firm mattress is ideal while for side sleepers a mattress with slight softness is important for cushioning the shoulder and hip.
  • Check your posture.
    A correct posture is vital to minimizing back pain. A good posture keeps proper alignment of the body with its neighboring parts, keeping all muscles engaged and pulling their weight. Try upper-body stretches and shoulder blade squeezes throughout the day to make sure you’re keeping a good posture.
  • Take breaks during work.
    Taking micro breaks every hour helps the back muscles to relax while giving your mind a break as well. Get up and take a walk around for a few minutes or try switching to a convertible standing desk. Research suggests half of the work hours should be spent standing, making sit-stand workstations ideal.
  • Drink enough water.
    Drinking water keeps joints and cartilage lubricated, including the parts that protect your spinal cord. With 85% of cartilage being made up of water, drinking a sufficient amount of water is a no brainer for helping decrease back pain.

Also, see a chiropractor:

Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation to treat pain conditions for the long term. They aim at securing proper alignment of the musculoskeletal system primarily the spine, helping the body to heal without invasive surgery or prescription medication.  They can create targeted and customized treatments based on the area and type of sprains, reducing injury and restoring mobility. Below are a few common tools and procedures that chiropractors use to treat pain.

  • Motion Palpation. Motion Palpation is a diagnostic tool that closely observes the spine to identify areas where the spinal cord is misaligned or does not move freely. The chiropractor carefully places his hand on your spinal area and feels the spinal column to identify unaligned areas.
  • Lumbar Roll. This is a very common practice of chiropractic with patients suffering from lower back pain. In this technique, you lie on your sides while the doctor faces the front plane of your body. A rapid precise thrust is applied to the problematic area to realign the vertebrae.
  • Table Adjustments.  This is another effective technique for unlocking your spine and ensuring total mobility as a treatment for lowering back pain. Table adjustments are a type of spinal manipulation which requires a portion of the table to drop below the rest. In this technique, the chiropractor applies a rapid thrust to the unaligned area and the table’s drop piece lowers down simultaneously as the thrust is applied. As the table drops down it buffers against the force exerted by the chiropractic adjustment, making the adjustment comfortable for both you and the doctor. The table adjustment method is highly effective and specialized, requiring the use of both equipment and skill.

Why Consider Chiropractic Care for Treating Back Pain?

Chiropractic adjustments aim at restoring your body to a proper position which in turn fosters the natural healing process. A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that patients with chronic low back pain showed greater improvement in one month after taking chiropractic treatment over general physicians. Chiropractic care involves non-invasive natural healing process which provides providing safe, long-term relief.