Do you ever ask yourself why your neck is so stiff, or why you have that nagging headache that doesn’t seem to want to go away? Neck pain is a common complaint for Canadians that can range from mildly inconvenient to completely debilitating. You’re probably aware that poor posture, hunching over a computer, or falling asleep on the sofa can cause your neck pain. But did you know your smartphone might be to blame?
How prolonged use can cause strain
According to a recent poll by Forum Research, more than a quarter of Canadians use a mobile device at least two hours a day.1 Over the span of a week, that’s 14 hours spent texting, calling and swiping.
So what exactly is happening to your neck while you’re staring at your smartphone? It all has to do with the angle of your head. When you’re sitting or standing in a neutral position, looking forward, your head weighs between 10-12 lbs. As you begin to tilt your head forward 15 degrees, you put stress on your neck, increasing the pressure to 27 lbs. By the time you angle your head 60 degrees to stare at your smartphone, the pressure equates to a whopping 60 lbs. That’s a lot of strain on your neck and spine!
Tips to relieve pain
What can you do to protect your spine and relieve neck pain? We know you can’t completely disconnect from your smartphones – many of us use our devices for work, to stay connected with distant friends and family, and as a source of entertainment after a long day. But there are small changes you can make to reduce the strain over time.
Dr. Sean Lamasz, DC, recommends the following tips to manage “Text Neck:”2
Lift your phone up to eye level
“A simple way to help prevent neck pain associated with these devices is to avoid bending your neck forward,” advises Dr. Lamasz. “Looking at your phone while sitting at your desk? Lean on your elbows, bringing your phone to eye level, allowing you to keep your neck in its neutral position.”
Take a break
Dr. Lamasz suggests implementing the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes on your mobile device, take a 20-second break and look 20 feet ahead, which will neutralize your spine.
Stretch it out
If you’re looking for something you can do to instantly relieve neck pain, try these eight simple stretches:
The human body is pretty amazing. It can convert food into energy and sunshine into vitamins. And, when everything is working as it should, the human body also has the ability to heal itself. When you get injured, a protective response is triggered that dilates blood vessels to improve blood flow to the injured area. You might experience immobility, heat, pain, redness and swelling, and this is normal. Acute inflammation is the body’s natural response to a threat. White blood cells move in and are then replaced by anti-inflammatory compounds to begin the healing process. Common examples of the normal process of acute inflammation include a sore throat, a sun burn or sinusitis.
Sometimes, however, when the negative stimulus continues, the inflammation “on” switch gets stuck and there is a persistent activation of inflammatory molecules. This is referred to as chronic inflammation, and can last for days, months, or even years, often with no visible signs. Chronic inflammation can result from a viral or microbial infection or environmental factors, including common allergens such as pollen. The condition can cause damage to the body’s tissues, replacing healthy cells with fibrous tissue. Chronic inflammation is abnormal and does not benefit the body – it signals a failure to eliminate whatever caused the initial acute inflammation. If your medical practitioner suspects that you may be suffering chronic inflammation, he or she can test for biomarkers that indicate inflammation, such as white blood cell count or albumin levels.
Inflammation and MSK Conditions
Chronic inflammation can lead to or complicate a number of diseases and conditions, such as asthma, Crohn’s disease and arthritis. Some cells in the body, such as neurons, cardiac cells and skeletal muscle cells are especially vulnerable to the effects of inflammation. Particularly, some systemic inflammatory MSK conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis can leave individuals susceptible to chronic pain and even signs of inflammation.
In some cases, biomechanical issues, trauma or injury can also lead to chronic inflammation and pain if left untreated. For example, an injury to the knee may cause additional weight loading on the joint and alter the gait. With time, the knee is more and more susceptible to injury and inflammation, and if left untreated, that condition can become chronic or recurrent.
Tips for Reducing Chronic Inflammation
Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats and trans fats, as well as foods with a high glycemic index. A Mediterranean-style diet that incorporates olive oil, fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains is thought to act as a natural anti-inflammatory. A good diet also helps to maintain a healthy body weight. Also, it is recommended to avoid or limit alcohol, tobacco, sugar and refined carbs among others.1
Regular exercise keeps your body moving and joints lubricated, your muscles toned and your energy level high. Those who exercise regularly are more likely to heal faster from injuries and less likely to develop chronic inflammation.
Several studies have shown that sleep deprivation can have an impact on inflammation and even increase it. For example, a 2006 study concluded that sleep loss alters molecular processes that drive cellular immune activation and induce inflammatory cytokines,2 which in turn can increase pain.3
4. Drink water
Water is an essential element to maintaining the body’s proper function. In fact, there are many benefits associated with drinking water aside from the basic need to stay hydrated. Water can help optimize energy throughout the day by nourishing your cells, keep the discs of the spine hydrated and even help modulate your calorie intake. It is also thought to help reduce chronic inflammation by reducing acidosis and keeping the body’s PH level in balance.
5. Quit smoking
We have already discussed the negative impacts of smoking on the musculoskeletal system, and it is well known that the toxic minerals contained in cigarette smoke are associated with premature death. Smoking triggers an immunologic response and can increase the level of inflammatory markers.
Sourced from the Canadian Chiropractic Association
1. Leo Galland, MD. Diet and Inflammation. Nutr Clin Pract December 2010 vol. 25no. 6.
2. Irwin MR, Wang M, Campomayor CO, Collado-Hidalgo A, Cole S. Sleep deprivation and activation of morning levels of cellular and genomic markers of inflammation. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Sep 18;166(16):1756-62.
3. Jun-Ming Zhang, MSc, MD1 and Jianxiong An, MSc, MD. Cytokines, Inflammation and Pain. Int Anesthesiol Clin. 2007 Spring; 45(2): 27–37.
Often my patients ask; doc, can you recommend a good pillow? This question is simple to answer – one that feels comfortable. After a pause, I typically receive a follow up question – how much do I need to spend to find a good comfortable pillow? My next answer is even less specific than my – it depends on you and your body. Sometimes a less expensive pillow works well for someone in comparison to a higher quality more expensive pillow. It all depends on you (your posture, preference, sleep patterns, etc.) and what you are looking for in a pillow…Here are some tips below that will help find the right pillow for you!
A good pillow for sleeping should be comfortable to lay your head upon, but most importantly it must support your neck keeping it in alignment with the rest of your spine. There are many different pillows on the market today from traditional feather and fiber ones to shaped pillows, memory foam and buckwheat pillows. It can be difficult to know what to choose.
There is no one “best” pillow for everyone. Try these tips to pick the pillow that’s right for you.
Choose a size of pillow suitable for your body size or frame. The pillow should cover the entire back of your neck to avoid putting pressure on your spine.
Try out the pillow. Most pillows are packaged in a plastic wrapper so you can lay it on a display bed in the store and put your head on it. This is the best way to find out if you are on the right track.
A hypoallergenic pillow is a must if you suffer from allergies, but it is also a good choice for anyone.
Buckwheat filled pillows have become increasingly popular. Buckwheat is hypoallergenic, it will mold to the contours of your head and neck providing good support, but it will also change shape when you move.
A good quality, supportive pillow provides many benefits including a better night’s sleep, improved circulation, fewer aches and pains and even reduced snoring. Take your time and choose carefully. Your neck and back will thank you for it!
Our modern digital age has brought us many conveniences. BlackBerry devices, iPhones, Samsung, tablets and e-readers allow us to communicate and be entertained with the push of a button. Technology can improve our quality of life, but it comes with a price: being huddled over devices for long period of times can do more harm than good.
Using certain devices for extended periods of time can easily lead to neck strain, headaches, and pain in the shoulders, arms and hands. Anyone who has used a cellphone or tablet for an extensive amount of time has probably experienced the peculiar strain it puts on your upper body. These conditions even have their own name now: Text Neck.
Here are some simple strategies to help shut down text neck strain:
Take frequent breaks
Taking frequent breaks and looking up from your device can provide your neck with some relief from the pressure of looking down.
Sit up straight
It is important to sit up straight while texting. This way you can maintain good posture, relieving your back and shoulders from the strain of being hunched over.
Hold the phone a little higher
Holding the phone closer to eye level helps maintain a healthy posture and puts less strain on the neck.
Be sure to stretch often between long periods of extended use of devices. You can rotate your shoulders with your arms by your sides to relieve tension. You can also tuck your chin down to your neck and then look up – this helps to relieve some of the tension in your neck built from the common forward-down position you adopt when looking at your device.
Many patients come to our clinic concerned about neck pain, neck spasm and even poor neck posture. We can help! Neck mobilizations, soft tissue therapy and heat can help loosen and realign the neck into proper position. Our chiropractor, physiotherapy and registered massage therapists are all trained to assist patients with neck pain and related health concerns.
Shared by Dr. Luciano Di Loreto, HBSc., D.C. & Associates
Fit for Life aims to provide every patient with focused care, and excellent service. Our diverse team of professionals will work with you to diagnose and treat ailments, and guide you to optimal health. Make an appointment with us today!