Last fall, when I would get out of bed in the mornings I started feeling a slight tingling sensation underneath my left tricep. Assuming it was a pulled muscle I went about my daily routine not giving it much thought.
I wish I had, within a week the pain had become unbearably acute. Getting out of bed became a pseudo acrobatic event. My screaming to get out of bed was the cue to my wife Jessica to come assist me. I would slowly crawl 6 inches to the edge of my bed, while she would cradle my neck, I would put my right hand underneath my left tricep and we would slowly get into a sitting position. The next ten minutes or so were spent with my left arm pressed against the wall till the pain became bearable. So much for not giving it any thought.
I am lucky to have an orthopedic surgeon as my friend, I gave Doc Doddle a call. After listening to my symptoms he asked me to drop by his clinic. My drive to his clinic turned into a lesson in saving fuel. Every time I attempted a left turn my neck would cry out in pain, so I chose a route to the freeway where I only attempted right turns. I did have to take a couple of left turns and if there was a gold medal for the slowest left turns I'd win it.
After doing a physical test his conclusion was that it has to do with my C6-C7 cervical discs (the cervical spine is comprised of 7 cervical vertebrae (termed C1 to C7), starting with C1 at the top of the spine and ending with C7 at the bottom of the cervical portion of the spine. Neck problems can cause neck pain and/or pain that radiates down the arms to the hands and fingers.) I should have an MRI done to confirm his diagnosis.
During my visit with him, I had numerous questions as to the reasons behind degeneration of these discs. He said genetics and normal wear and tear which come with aging are a couple of reasons, but bad posture plays a huge part. He pointed out the way I was leaning in and listening to him, my neck was about an inch and half forward and it had been for around 25 minutes.
He informed me the ideal neutral position for you neck is when your ears are directly aligned over your shoulders. The average human head weighs about 10-12 lbs. With every inch forward the neck moves the stress on the spine is increased by 10lbs. (stop and see how forward your neck is). In those 25 mins I had put an additional 15lbs of stress on my spine. He said Vishal we are unknowingly putting a tremendous amount of stress on our spines. It all begins with our posture when we are on our cell phones, on our computers, while driving and definitely when sleeping, amongst other reasons.
How Technology, Transportation and Sleeping is affecting our spinal alignment and how to minimize this risk deserves individual blogs. On this one we will cover smartphones.
We live in a connected world, smart phones and computers provide us with a lot of conveniences. Data suggest we are on our phones an average of 4 hours a day (scrolling, texting, talking.). Resulting affect is an incredible amount of stress on our spines. In the early 90s it was used simply to make phone calls, in the early 2000s we called, texted and occasionally surfed the web. Now, your phone does everything for you. It’s your guide while you drive, it’s your portable mall & movie theater, and honestly what can’t you do on your phone. Recent articles in the Spine Journal suggest an increase in patients with back and neck pain which are directly associated with prolonged smartphone use. This is also called text neck.
Text neck is becoming more and more common with the increase use of our smartphones & there is no way you’ll stop using it. No, there isn’t an app that will help text neck, so here are the some other ways to prevent text neck:
Raise your smartphone
The quickest fix for preventing text neck is to change the placement of your phone. Bringing your smartphone to your eye level will improve your posture. Your back won’t be slumped over and your neck won’t get strained.
Wear a Bluetooth headset
By wearing a headset you no longer need to cram your phone between your neck and shoulders while making a phone call. Using a headset will help you keep your balanced position and avoid neck strains.
Practicing the chin tuck should help alleviate text neck. What text neck does is stretch your neck forward & it over stretches your back, the chin tuck does the exact opposite. It’s not the most attractive pose, but it should help change your posture over time.
Here’s how you perform the chin tuck:
How to do it: Tuck your chin toward your body and hold for around 10 seconds, repeat 3-5 times. It’s recommended to do this 1-2 times per day. Avoid staring downwards, this may cause some strain to your eyes & neck. Your eyes should remain looking straight while performing the chin tuck.
Here is a video example on how to properly chin tuck:
Our number one recommendation is to please consult your doctor before doing any of these exercises.
Use Siri for things other than jokes
Siri can be quite useful if given the chance. Instead of manually texting your friends and family, let Siri do all the typing. By telling Siri what to text you end up not looking straight down at your phone, which help avoid text neck.
Stretching will help alleviate pain in your neck area. This helps stretch the soft tissues and muscles around your neck. There are a few stretches that may help: side neck stretch & the neck extension.
How to do the side neck stretch: Simply tilt your head to the left and right for 15 seconds on each side. Avoid pulling your neck too much, you should tilt your neck with ease.
Heres a video on how to side stretch your neck:
Our number one recommendation is to please consult your doctor before attempting any of these exercises.
How to do the neck extension: You can do this while seated, make sure your shoulders are back and your heads is tilted backwards with your face looking at the ceiling. You want to hold this position for around 20 seconds and repeat this motion 3-5 times. You want to avoid tightening your muscles while doing this exercise. You want to relax the muscles around your neck.
Here's a video on how to do the neck extension:
These exercises should help relieve some pain, but our number one recommendation is to please consult your doctor before attempting any of these exercises.
Text neck is a growing concern for everyone with a smartphone, it is best to take it seriously. Your smartphone makes your life a lot easier, but you need to be careful on how long and the way you use it. Making a few changes could save you from severe pain down the road.
- Vishal N.
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