Preserving Your Body While Using Modern Technology
Think about your body position right now, as you read this blog. Are you hunched over with your shoulders rounded forward? Are your head & neck tilted as you read this on your phone in your lap?
The human head weighs about 10 pounds on average. Your cervical spine holds up that 10 pounds all day, every day. Think about what happens to your body, as you spend more time on tablets and smart phones not focusing on your posture. When your body is hunched over with your head and neck tilted down, it puts more pressure on your cervical spine. Over time, the cervical spine loses its natural curvature, thus putting pressure on those intervertebral discs and spinal nerves causing neck pain.
Imagine holding an 8-12 pound bowling ball with two hands close to your body. Now imagine holding that same ball with your arms stretched out in front of your body. Which is harder? Holding the ball out in front of your body is much harder than keeping it close against the body. The same is true for your head (bowling ball) and cervical spine (arms). When your head is in front of your shoulders, the muscles of the neck and upper back have to work harder to hold it up. This is one of the most prevalent causes of upper back and neck pain.
For every single inch forward our head goes, it can increase the weight of the head by 10 additional pounds.
I know that in our fast paced society full of technology, we can't just quit our desk jobs, or stop texting one another. However, introducing these tips into your self-care routine could definitely increase your productivity at work, reduce your pain, and reintroduce that natural curvature back into your cervical spine.
Limit your electronic usage:
I know it sounds simple, and it actually is that simple. Take time away from your phone and give your neck a break. Maybe start reducing the amount of time you spend on social media, and focus on another hobby that you haven't spent a lot of time on lately.
Bruegger's is a great exercise to try out, especially if you're taking mini breaks at work. Sit at the edge of your seat. Have your legs hip width apart with your feet turned out at a 45-degree angle. Hang your arms loosely at your side with your palms facing forward. Sit up straight in a neutral position. Be sure not to over-extend to avoid putting a large curve in your low back. Bring your head back so it is directly over your shoulders. Take 5-10 deep breaths in and out. Repeat as needed. (I recommend 1-2 minutes/ each hour at a desk)
Perform Neck Stretches & Cervical Range of Motion:
Neck stretching is also a great thing you can introduce into your self-care routine. The cervical (neck) ranges of motion are a very easy and effective way to stretch your neck. Perform them in the shower with the hot water hitting on your neck and upper back (to help encourage relaxation) or while you are watching T.V. Go through the following 6 ranges, 2-3 times/day: tuck your chin to your chest (flexion), look up to the ceiling (extension), bend your ear to your shoulder, both sides (lateral flexion), turn your chin to your shoulder, both sides (rotation). The key is to go until you feel restriction, but not past it! Hold for 5-10 seconds. Do NOT force the motion.
Use a Cervical Roll:
After a long day at work (or on your phone); your neck needs a break. The neck is supposed to have a natural C-shaped curve, but as I mentioned before, it can be flattened or even reversed. A simple way to help get the curve back is the use of a cervical roll. Take a small hand towel and roll it up length-wise. Once it is rolled you can put a rubber band or duct tape around it to keep it rolled tight. Now laying on your back on a flat surface, place the roll at the base of your neck so your neck naturally curves around it. Do not put it under your head. If your head is propped up you need to move the roll lower down your spine. Relax and rest on the cervical roll for 15-30 minutes/day.
After low back pain, neck pain is the second most common reason people see a chiropractor. Chiropractic adjustments will help restore normal joint function and can reduce/eliminate muscular tension.