I Have NECK Pain and I don’t know why?
Stop. Before you read any further, I want you to take an honest assessment of your posture. If you are anything like 90% of the subjects in a recent study1 you are reading this with a forward flexed posture: shoulders rounded, neck protruding forward, and back slouched. Congratulations, you have awful posture. Now let’s fix it!
First, why is this a problem?
As our society becomes more tech-savvy and we spend more time with our smart-phones and tablet computers, we place excessive strain on our neck structures (vertebrae, discs, musculature, nerves, etc.). For every inch the head moves forward (think: “Texting Posture”), the weight of the head on the spine increases by an additional 10 pounds. With the average head weighing 10-12 pounds, by simply texting in a poor posture, you’ve just added 30 extra pounds of weight to your spine!
Unfortunately, texting postures don’t just affect the neck; frequently the shoulders can also become “rounded” forward, causing the chest muscles to become tight and our upper back muscles to weaken. The more we frequent this position, the harder it is to correct it.
With 2.19 trillion1 texts being sent every year in the U.S. alone, it is no wonder why we as physical therapists are seeing so many patients with unrelenting neck, shoulder, and upper back pain.
How can we fix this?
In our physical therapy clinic, we continually try to educate our patients on proper body mechanics to prevent this texting posture and the pains associated with long-term repetitive stress. Here are a few simple and widely recognized ways to prevent bad posture and neck pain:
- Maintain proper posture: with your shoulder blades gently squeezed, try to think about tucking your chin in towards your spine slightly, so that your ears are resting directly over your shoulders. From here, bend at your elbows, bringing both hands together and in front of your face (think, blowing your nose). This is where you should hold your phone or tablet.
- 2. Dictate: if texting is a must, try using one of your smart-phone features and dictate your text messages to friends and family. Make sure you still maintain proper posture. If your phone does not have this feature…
- 3. Try different ways to communicate: just like the old-days! If your neck and shoulders are bothering you, maybe texting isn’t worth it. Try calling, emailing, or spend face-to-face quality time with your friends and family instead of texting. Again, whatever you decide, maintain proper posture!
- 4. Exercise back into good mechanics: In physical therapy, we prescribe stretches to address tight areas (typically upper traps and chest muscles) and strengthen the weak areas (middle and lower traps, deep neck flexors) associated with poor texting posture.
If you continue to experience significant pain, do not hesitate to seek medical advice from your physician or physical therapist. Always remember, this is your body and you only get one! If you are continually experiencing nagging pain from an old sports injury or car accident, maybe texting or playing games on your tablet/phone just isn’t worth it.
Cole Racich, PT, DPT