Constantly looking at smart phone could lead to tech neck

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By SCOTT SNYDER, DC
Special to Palms West Monthly
Posted Jan. 31, 2018

Back in the day when I was a new practitioner, the chances were pretty good that if a patient came into the office complaining of a sore neck, they probably fell asleep in bed with the television on.

Most of my patients came to the office with initial complaints of lower back pain or upper back pain, typically caused by activities that they were not used to performing or sudden traumas like jerking their body upon walking off a curb.

But times have changed and so has the technology. And not necessarily for the betterment of our health.

No longer the size of bricks, cell phones have become ubiquitous – even little kids have them. And thanks to the fact that we are constantly connected – to each other as well as to social and other media – we are seeing a society that is most definitely in a state of deteriorating spinal health.

Why should that be? The answer is relatively simple: look around you. Either at the restaurant you’re having lunch in or while waiting at the red light. Almost everyone is looking downward at their cellphones.

The forward posture is causing muscles to tighten and spasm. The act of repeatedly looking down at your cell phone or tablet is called Tech Neck. This extra pressure can be as much as 50 pounds on bones and muscle that were only meant to handle the weight of your head, roughly 10 to 12 pounds at a neutral position.

This results in neck pain, headaches, stiffness in the shoulders and problems throughout the back. Over time, irreparable damage might occur. We are actually seeing cases of severe osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease) in young teenagers!

I should mention that this condition is not necessarily new. In the past, people working in occupations such as hairdressing and dental assisting were also known to develop what we call Tech Neck through their habitual looking down in order to do their work. In fact, it was unusual to see a person under twenty with this condition – until now.

But there is good news. With a change in habits, some chiropractic adjustments and specific exercises, it is possible to reverse the effects of Tech Neck.

• Change of Habits: Look up from your screen every five minutes. Bring the phone up to your eye level if possible. Consider turning the phone off (or bury it in a pocket or purse) when eating with friends. Take a break from social media, catching up maybe once or twice a day. And turn your notifications off.

• Stretch those aching neck and upper back muscles. Start by tucking your chin inward toward your chest and hold for several seconds. Repeat 10 times. Next, bend your head from side to side, trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat this five times on each side. Finally, rotate your head from side to side. Hold it at each endpoint for 20 seconds. Repeat this five times.

• Consider chiropractic adjustments. If you’re already experiencing pain or even headaches, then it’s high time that you see your chiropractor. He will analyze the range of motion of your neck and back and possibly take x-rays to determine how far along your Tech Neck has progressed.

After this analysis, he or she will come up with a protocol to improve the posture and mobility of the patient’s neck which may include physical therapy as well as gentle chiropractic adjustments. A corrective pillow might be recommended as well.

With regular treatments in conjunction with exercise and changes in habits, your Tech Neck can be a pain-free, healthy neck again.

Dr. Scott Snyder has been active in the Western Communities since 1987. Graduating Cum Laude from the Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis, he is a diplomat of the Board of Chiropractic Examiners. His practice is in the Shoppes at Andros, 8993 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach. Visit his website at snyderchiropractic.com.

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