Could forward head posture and "text neck" the cause of your neck pain, headaches, tingling and numbness in the arms, and a burning pain between the shoulder blades? Let's read more about the situation many of us find ourselves in, and what we can do to help prevent it.
Artist, Pawel Kuczynski
The human head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. When the head is in a neutral position, that weight can be supported by the neck muscles, but when the head is 30 degrees forward, the weight on those neck muscles increases to about 40 pounds.
When the head is held forward 60 degrees, that weight increases to about 60 pounds pressure on the neck muscles. When we hold this position for any length of time, we create a repetitive use injury for our neck muscles, which is commonly called text-neck.
Some startling facts:
The average person checks their cellphone 110 times a day! We use our phones while waiting in line at the grocery store, post office, while pooping, driving, having sex (yes, a study showed that 62% of women and 48% of males check their phones during sex), watching TV, in the movie theater, at breakfast, lunch and dinner, etc.
Our society is driven by the hypnotic gadget technology, supporting the zombie-like habits that may cause serious health dysfunctions.
Some of the short term symptoms of Text Neck:
Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ)
Wear and tear of the spine
Discomfort in the neck while bending or performing any neck movements
Neck pain going in to shoulders with stiffness
Pain in the wrists, arms and elbows
Muscle cramps in the upper back and shoulders
These symptoms if overlooked, with the passing time one may experience nerve related symptoms (like those seen in cervical spondylitis) like numbness and tingling along both the arms and hands.
Long-term forward and downward angled neck posture can lead to disc herniation, long-term muscle strain and pinched nerves. It can also lead to decreased respiratory muscle strength.
Here are some symptoms that can occur depending on which nerve root is being compressed in the cervical spine:
C1 and C2. These two nerve roots at the top of the cervical spine control the head. An irritation to these nerves could cause headaches.
C3 and C4. These nerve roots help regulate the diaphragm, which is instrumental to breathing. An irritation to these nerves could harm breathing. The C4 nerve root can radiate pain to the lower neck and shoulder.
C5. If this nerve root is impinged or irritated, shoulder pain and weakness can be experienced at the top of the upper arm.
C6. If this nerve root is impinged or irritated, weakness can be experienced in the biceps and wrist. In addition, pain, tingling, and numbness can radiate through the arm to the thumb.
C7. Compression of this nerve root can cause weakness in the back of the upper arm, or pain can radiate down the back of the arm and into the middle finger.
C8. Compression of this nerve root can cause weakness with handgrip, along with numbness and tingling pain that radiates down the arm to the little finger.
Cervical Radiculopathy (affection of a set of nerves in the neck)
Cervical Spondylitis (swelling involving bones of the spine)
Facet Joint Osteoarthritis (degeneration of the joints of the spine)
Scoliosis (Forward bending of the spine with loss of normal curvature of the spine)
Eye, brain and organ health deterioration
And it's not just for adults... we should help guide our kids to practice better posture while using technology. If not, they are setting themselves up for serious dysfunction in their health and wellness for years to come.
How to prevent Text Neck
First and foremost, simply becoming aware and conscious of your body and mind will help you to notice and observe your posture.
Then, ask yourself, how can I improve this posture at this moment?
Some simple tips for correcting your posture while texting:
1. Support one elbow while holding the phone in the other hand, like pictured above.
2. While sitting at your desk, standing anywhere, driving, etc. you can Imagine that someone is pulling a string from the top of your head, gently up towards the sky, naturally resting your head on top of your spine, stacked properly.
3. Move around. Lay on your belly, lay on your back with the phone raised above you (just don't drop it on your face!)
4. The Chin Tuck is like forcing your body to make a double chin then releasing it. You keep your head neutral, chin level and pull the head back like a turtle. Hold for 2 seconds and repeat 10 times provided the exercise is pain free. Repeat 3 – 5 times daily.
5. Strengthening exercises, certain yoga poses, stretching, massage therapy, self-massage can help to correct the muscle imbalance.
Weakened muscles include:
Longus colli (Front part of neck)
Longus capitis (Front part of neck)
Infrahyoid and suprahyoid (Front part of neck)
Rhomboids (Upper back muscles)
Serratus anterior (Along the side of the ribs connecting to shoulder blade)
Posterior rotator cuff (Back part of the shoulder)
Lower trapezius (Mid back)
Tightened muscles include:
Suboccipitals (Base of the skull)
Sternocleidomastoid (Side and front of neck)
Upper trapezius (Upper back)
Pectoralis minor and major (Chest muscles)
Levator scapulae (Neck down to shoulder blade)
Subscapularis (Shoulder blade area)
Latissimus dorsi (Mid to Lower back)
The movers like the latissimus, trapezius and SCM (Sternocleidomastoid) get stiff and sore, while the deeper muscles get long and weak. When we move our head forward, the erector spinae are working too hard to hold our head up and massage therapy can help those muscles to relax.
In conclusion, although the majority of us "need" our technologies to survive in the modern age, there are many things we can do to prevent Text Neck. It's all about retraining yourself and setting new habits.
You've got this!
Thank you for reading and as always, feel free to message me with comments, questions, or concerns.
Have a wonderful day!
4. Edmondston, SJ; Wallumrød, ME; Macléid, F; Kvamme, LS; Joebges, S; Brabham, GC (June 2008). "Reliability of isometric muscle endurance tests in subjects with postural neck pain.". Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics. 31 (5): 348–54. PMID 18558277. doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2008.04.010.
5. Jump up^ Leddy, Alyssa; Polishchuk, Kimberly. "Deep Neck Flexor Stabilisation Protocol". Physiopedia.