Is Technology Causing Us All a Pain In The Neck?
Technology can cause neck pain.
In some countries where they are very techno savvy, you can see everybody on a train or bus looking down at their smart phone.
No matter what age they are they are all staring at the screen. This could lead to what is called a kyphosis or was once called a dowager’s hump in the upper back.
This causes you to lose height and look round shouldered and humpish in appearance. In the last 12 months, statistics have shown 1 billion people are using smart phones. It is no wonder many of us get neck pain from looking down at our phones.
This particular posture places a lot of pressure on the neck and upper back. Continued poor posture will often lead to a hump in the upper back.
The alarming thing is that we used to only see this hump in a lot of older people, but we’re now seeing a lot more people develop humps much earlier in age and sometimes even at school age.
As technology becomes more popular and gains increased features, we will spend more time using it. If we are not careful, this can lead to various aches and pains in our body. Specifically, we are seeing more and more people in clinic with sore necks and upper backs due to prolonged smartphone use. The longer we spend looking down at our phones, the more stress and strain that is placed on our muscles, joints and nervous system. This can also lead to headaches and eye strain.
There are several ways to manage pain related to increased technology use, as well as ways to prevent it from occurring. Firstly, it is important to consider how you are using your phone. Some simple tips include:
- Give yourself regular rest and stretch breaks. If you will be using your phone for a prolonged period, stretch your neck, back and shoulders every 15-20 minutes for a few minutes
- Consider the position of your phone. Try and have it in a position where you don’t have to look down at it for too long. Also try and avoid placing it on one side, which will lead to muscle imbalance
- Maintain good posture whilst using your phone
- If the text is too small, see if you can increase the zoom. This will avoid you going into a forward head posture, which can increase stress and strain on your neck
Research on neck pain
Kenneth K Hansraj M.D. wrote a paper, ’The assessment of stressors in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head’.
A recent study on dowager’s hump or kyphosis also linked the reason for the development to smart phone use.
In this study, it clearly showed that this rounded posture with smart phone and tablet use increased pressure on the spine, and increased the weight of the head depending on where the smart phone was held.
A human head weighs about 5kg with perfect posture. If your head is slightly forward the weight on the neck and upper back can increases. If your smart phone is at waist height, the pressure of the weight of your head increases by four times on your neck
If your smart phone is held around chest height, the weight increased is about three times and if it’s held around shoulder height with you looking straight forward with perfect posture, the weight is only 5kg, which is the weight of your head.
Alex Sherbourne is a physiotherapist based in Sydney and he has developed a Pilates based piece of equipment that is designed to help this problem by strengthening the deep neck extensor muscles through resistance band type exercise.
This means that we can strengthen the posterior muscles of the neck so that you are better able to hold your head in an upright position, therefore more able to withhold the stress of looking at your smart phone for short periods of time.
We as physios will always teach exercises to strengthen the deep neck flexors and stabilisers but it’s very important to increase the strength of the neck extensors as well.
Related Tag: Neck Pain Treatment Graceville
Physiotherapy can help to reduce symptoms associated with prolonged technology use. Manual therapy, massage and dry needling are all effective modalities to relieve pain and increase mobility. Exercises are important to regain mobility and increase strength in your postural muscles. We also use the Neck Tek, a piece of exercise equipment designed to help strengthen the muscles in the neck responsible for maintaining good posture.