Modern technology and sedentary based work-life causing a new health condition called “Tech Neck”. It can start off as acute, and result in chronic afflictions that may last a lifetime if not corrected.
Forward head posture (FHP) causes a multitude of spinal, muscle, nerve symptoms that can create secondary problems.
The physical stress placed upon the neck and upper back due to repetitive stress injury such as the head being forward more than 45 degrees, to use electronic devices such as iPhone or any other smart phones, laptop computers or any other related advanced technologies.
These repetitive stress injuries can affect the neck, back, low back, but also other areas of the body, such as elbows, wrists, and hands.
It is highly recommended to take breaks every 45 minutes and always be conscious of your posture.
High Tech Causing Anatomical Changes and Long-lasting Pain
Computer and workplace ergonomics have been a hot topic of concern since the majority of the workforce have become sedentary, sitting for long periods of time using computers and related technologies.
Over the years, with the introduction of smart phones and tablets, more time is spent on these devices not only at work but also outside of work. So, the problem has spread beyond the workforce and now to all of society who utilize these technologies.
It is one of the greatest concerns for our children and teens since they are using smart phones and tablets for several hours every day at such an early age and will continue to use these for the rest of their lives.
Symptoms may include neck pain, upper back, upper shoulder, shoulder, wrist, hand and finger pain, as well as mid back / scapular pain, headaches and eye strain or more menacing and long-lasting affects such as numbness and tingling in neck, back and upper extremities, weakness in hands/wrists, TMJ pain, teeth clenching, dental issues, lower back pain, psychiatric disorders – including anxiety, depression, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), apathy, lack of motivation and disassociation with reality.
It is highly recommended to take breaks every 45 minutes and always be **conscious of your posture. **
Regarding children, if you look around these days, it is a very common sight to see an infant, as young as 3 years old or younger, using a smart phone or tablet. If you take a few minutes and observe them, you will realize they are not only watching these devices for extended periods, but also they know how to use them with ease.
The anatomy of babies is such that they are born with a total “C” curve in their spine. This curve is called primary spinal curve. It is basically a one big “C” or more like a parentheses “(“ from the base of their skull to their sacrum. They are in total flexion position, all curled up in a long convex curve in the mother’s womb. Around or about their first birthday, babies begin to slowly develop their normal curves in the spine. Most notable is the cervical curve which starts to form as the baby lifts his head up and begins to crawl looking up at his or her parents or caretakers and later walk. These spinal curves are referred to as secondary spinal curves as they are developed after birth.
With the introduction of smart mobile phones and/or tablets to babies, they use these devices for hours at a time. They bend their heads and necks forward more often than with natural day routine and developmental activities and actions. This forward position/ posture is opposite of the normal backwards force motions that help the cervical curves develop.
They start developing Forward Head Posture (FHP) as the vital cervical curve is molding and forging itself.
This can start early spinal misalignment or better known as subluxations, painful trigger points, nerve impingements that can cause pain in the neck, shoulder, or arm. In many cases it may become chronic and affect additional developmental issues during puberty.
It may even cause emotional and/ or psychological symptoms as they focus more on technologies and less on their surrounding living environment. In some cases this may result in anti-social behaviors, anxiety, temper tantrums and other negative actions.
As advance computer technology is becoming a great part of our everyday life, our society is being run with computer technologies more and more and it’s important that our children have the opportunities to learn these devices so they can easily transition into school and work where these devices are a vital tool to thriving in our lives.
However, because infancy to puberty is such an important physical and emotional developmental chapter, limits need to be set on how long and what capacity smart phones and tablets should be utilized.
Healthy limits allow them to acquire the benefits and lessen the damages.
As children transition into puberty and their teens, their spine goes through a growth spurt. Growth plates in the spine begin to fuse at the end of puberty. The spine is the last to stop growing vs. the extremities.
It is a rarity to see any tween or teenager without a phone or tablet, and unfortunately it seems like they are on them constantly.
You seem the vast majority of teenagers with their heads 45 degrees or more leaning forward for long periods of time using these devices.
They use technologies in school and at home.
Their postures remain in the forward position for hours at a time on a daily basis.
Many teens also use heavy backpacks that cause additional stress to the spine and muscles.
Proper use technology such as phone and proper posture need to emphasized in school and at home.
Proper Use of Cellphones to Prevent Tech Neck
1- Stand or sit upright, do NOT slouch or slump
2- Minimize the amount that the arms are floating in front of the body
3- If possible, find a place to rest your elbow such as a desk or your knees. If not, then use opposite hand.
4- Keep the Cell phone at eye level.
5- If possible, use phone’s dictation instead of texting.
6- Limit the use of mobile phone
7- Taking time off to stretch in between long sessions
By teaching them to hold their bodies in the least damaging position, they can minimize the physical harm to their growing skeletal structure.
Time limits also need to be set to balance the positive affects of learning and being comfortable with computers and smart phones, while also reducing the negative social and psychological harm that comes from paying attention to the technologies and not the world.
Exercises and stretches can easily be woven into daily routines and made fun so they stick to these positive habits through these developmental years.
Time away from technology is needed to connect to people, nature and technology-free thoughts.
For adults, there are very few occupations that do not involve these technologies in some capacity. It is so important to have proper posture while using these computers both at work and at home to minimize pain and dysfunction.
Breaks from technologies need to be taken daily and quite often.
Even getting up every 20 minutes and lightly stretching can break up muscle memory and diminish potential chronic effects.
If FHP is not corrected, this can speed up many bone and joints conditions such as arthritis, disc he hydrations, degeneration or desiccations and create a whole myriad of symptoms and associated conditions.
Pain and dysfunction can affect work and home life and may cause co-morbidities.
Just like professional athletes, adults need to develop a daily routine which includes exercises that includes stretches before, during and after work.
Like their younger counterparts, limits need to be set on their recreation technology for their ultimate health and wellbeing.
FHP results in the head in a forward position, usually 45 degrees or more. This causes flexion in the cervical spine which can decrease the normal lordosis, resulting in straightening (AKA Military Neck) and even reversed cervical curvature. Over time, this can and may cause a hyperkyphotic thoracic spine.
When FHP is due to over-use of technological devices, it has been dubbed as “iHunch”.
For the brain to operate properly, it needs the eyes looking straight ahead at horizon level. As FHP develops, the body tries to adapt and attempts to get the eyes to look straight ahead which causes more pressure on the neck and upper back.
Muscles adapts in many ways, such as shortening, tightness, spasms, lengthening, becoming weakened or Forming trigger points.
Muscles that can elongate and weaken are deep cervical flexors, Longus Capitus and Longus Colli. These frontal neck stabilizers can become weak and lengthen and cause the chin to tilt forward, sometimes referred to as “chin poking”.
Other muscles that can elongate and weaken are erector Spinae which are muscles of the lower neck and upper back are one of the main reasons for neck straightening and rotating. As they lose strength and lengthen, they are unable to hold the neck and upper back from FHP.
Rhomboids and Middle Trapezius: These help to keep the scapulae retracted. When these muscles weaken they elongate and cause the shoulder blades to roll forward, adding to more shoulder rotation and add to FHP. Sub occipital muscles have to work overtime to try keep the head up and eyes at horizon level. This can directly contribute to pain, headaches and vision problems.
Chest muscles, including pectoralis minor get very tight and shorten as the shoulders become more rounded.
Levator scapulae muscles become affected as the scapulae and shoulders round forward.
Spinal nerves that exit the cervical and upper thoracic spine can be affected. The cervical and brachial plexus can be “pinched” affecting the head, neck, face, shoulders, arms, hands, chest and upper back.
FHP adds to or worsen Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS): Although this is mainly a result of the narrowing of the tunnel in the wrist where nerves run to the hand, FHP can add to this syndrome. Problems at the neck must be corrected even if CTS is alleviated at the wrist.
FHP causing Headaches: As FHP progresses and the head is tipping up to bring the eyes to horizon level, this puts additional pressure on the upper neck and upper cervical nerves. This can cause headaches that may range from low to severe pain level and can become chronic.
Eye Strain: FHP and the resulting head tilting up to have the eyes level puts pressure on the head and eye muscles. Chronic eye strain can lead to dry or watery eyes, burning, itching, blurred or double vision or tired eyes.
TMJ: FHP can also contribute to TMJ dysfunction. As the head tilts up and rotates to balance the eyes, it can put pressure on the face and TMJ. As this affects the nerves, it can become painful. As TMJ continues, the body compensates by clenching of the teeth both awake and/or at sleep. Long term pressure like this can cause tooth erosion, bite misalignments and other dental issues.
Lower Back Pain: As FHP develops, the forward weight of the head and upper body puts additional pressure on the lower back. More pressure on the nerves can mean increased lower back pain, sciatica, etc.
The weight of an adult human head is approximately 10-12 pounds. When it is positioned properly directly over the neck and shoulders with appropriate curves in place, the body can easily handle this weight. As the FHP progresses, the weight of the head exponentially increases. One study measured the weight of the head as it moved forward beyond the lateral posture line. It was found that, in a neutral position, the average human head weights 10-12 pounds (4.5-5.5 kilograms).
As the head moves forward, this weight increases drastically:
- At 15 degrees, the head weighs 27 pounds (12.3 kilograms)
- At 30 degrees, it increases to 40 pounds (18.2 kilograms)
- At 45 degrees, it weighs 49 pounds (22.3 kilograms)
- At 60 degrees, it exerts a force of 60 pounds on the cervical spine. (27.3 kilograms)
- At 90 degrees the force could not be measured.
Research has shown that digital medial use can cause ADHD. In conclusion, we know all that time spent on technologies and prolonged activity on smart phones and tablets have negative physical effects on the body, and also negatively affect the brain.
If you experience any symptoms, feel free to contact Dr. Shoar, the best chiropractor near you in Oxnard.