Text Neck: “Why neck pain will become the new low back pain”

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Most likely you know someone who suffers from low back pain. Research shows that 70-90% of the population will have some type of low back pain and most will have their first episode by 35 years old. Over 100 billion dollars are spent on the treatment of health care.

However with the prevalence and reliance on smartphones, computers, and tablets, there is an increased likelihood that neck pain will take the place of low back pain. The reason for this is that the neck and spine are placed into a poor posture when using these devices.

The head goes out of neutral into a position called “forward head posture.” The picture above demonstrates this positioning. As the head translates forward, it puts an exponential pressure on the spine. The area that is most impacted is the junction between the lower neck and upper back, also known as the cervicothoracic junction. This is where the C7 and T1 vertebra meet. The average human head weighs between 10-12lbs but as the head moves forward, it makes it feel as if the head now weighs 27 lbs. At a 60 degree angle, the head becomes 60 lbs. That increase leads to more wear and tear on the C7/T1, in other words, increased degeneration.

Other changes you may see are rounding of the upper back, leading to a “humped” back. The shoulders round forward and the pectoralis muscles get tight. The upper back muscles get tight as well in an attempt to support the head in the forward posture with the added weight. This poor positioning may be associated with headaches as well.

Unfortunately phones aren’t going away but there are steps that can be taken to combat the negative effects of being on devices. There are three easy steps:

  1. Thoracic mobility drills
  2. Chest stretching
  3. Activation of middle and lower trapezius muscles
The best strategy is to limit your time on different devices. Most people spend their day on the computer at work and when not working, they are on their smartphones. However, it’s important to maintain good posture, especially a neutral head position whenever possible.

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