Neck pain is common, and the incidence of this complaint increases with age.
Today, though, an increasing number of younger patients have this complaint.
“Text neck” – as it is popularly termed – often is the culprit. As more people hunch over mobile devices and computer screens, they can aggravate muscles in the neck and shoulders and even in the lower back.
In fact, neck pain is becoming a common work-related complaints in occupational health.
Generally, people drop their heads to look at screens. This causes the neck to move forward and leads to a tendency to round your shoulders and lift them up toward your ears.
This posture can result in spasms in the neck and shoulders. Over time, improper alignment can cause wear and tear on the structures of the neck.
And tight and tender muscles are more prone to injury when combined with other activities such as heavy lifting, bending and twisting.
SIZE OF A BOWLING BALL
Properly aligned neck muscles are intended to support the weight of the head, which generally weighs 10-12 pounds, roughly the size of a bowling ball.
Studies show that with every inch you drop your head forward, you double the load on your neck.
Thus, looking down at your mobile phone or computer screen without proper neck alignment can put as much as 60 pounds of extra weight on your neck muscles.
Additionally, a slumped posture can decrease your ability to expand your lungs fully, thereby decreasing the amount of available oxygen. Less oxygen means your heart must work harder to carry more oxygenated blood to your body.
STRAIGHT AHEAD, STAY NIMBLE
There are several simple ways to decrease this strain on your neck and shoulders and lessen the risk for neck pain and injury:
< Proper posture is crucial. Check your posture in the mirror. Your ears and shoulders should be in a straight line.
< Look forward at your screen rather than bending down your head. Keep your feet flat on the floor, roll your shoulders back and keep your ears directly over them so your head isn’t tilted forward. Raise the level of your mobile device or computer screen to eye level.
< Keep your neck and shoulder muscles limber and strong. Stretch your neck frequently throughout the day by simply turning your head side to side, stretching your ear to your shoulder and making gentle circles with your head.
Make a habit of checking yourself frequently throughout the day to see if you are hunching your shoulders up to your ears. You will be surprised to discover how frequently you will find yourself in this position.
The stresses of daily living also can contribute to this improper posture.
Finally, and most importantly, sit up straight.
SIMPLE YET POWERFUL
Proper posture with correct neck and shoulder alignment as you use mobile devices and look at computer screens can help alleviate neck and shoulder pain and the risk of damage to underlying structures.
Overall, these simple adjustments can reduce the risk of more serious injuries as you perform work and daily activities.
Addie Cassel, a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, is board certified in family practice and specializes in occupational health. She practices at Lehigh Valley Health Network-HealthWorks with four offices in the Lehigh Valley dedicated to occupational health, where she provides treatment and health care needs for workers and companies. She can be reached at 610-402-9230 or Adelaide_M.Cassel@lvhn.org.