Neck pain is very common in the U.S. and industrialized countries. Women, older adults, and those in rear-end car accidents are at risk. The good news is that 80-90% of the time most people recover in 12 weeks. Unfortunately, more of us are developing neck pain from smartphones and other handheld devices. Think about the way you sit at a computer or the way you look at your phone. You don’t usually keep the phone or the laptop at eye level. More than likely, you are bending your head forward in a slouched position looking at those screens for long periods of time. In fact, when you bend your head to a 60 degree angle, it’s the equivalent of carrying an 8 year old child around your neck for hours per day. And guess what? We are spending an average of 2-4 hours per day with our heads tilted, reading and texting on smartphones.
Your neck muscles and upper back muscles (trapezius) can tense and lead to neck pain and headaches. In time, the discs in the neck can tear, causing pain, inflammation, and later disc herniation. Here are a few exercises and best practices that can help relieve some of that pain the next time you are texting for too long:
- Regular stretching of your neck muscles is important to reduce stiffness. Similar to other overuse conditions, tight muscles can create a lot of pain, including cramping. Maintain range of motion of your neck by stretching from side to side. Turn your head to the left. With your hand, push your chin so that you are stretching a little further than your neck would normally allow. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the right side.
- Similarly, tilt your head to the left and push on your right temple to go a little further. Hold for 10 seconds and then repeat by tilting your head to the right side and pushing on your left temple. Here’s another exercise – touch your chin to your chest. Relax your shoulders as you do this, and hold for 10 seconds. Even the simplest of stretches if practiced multiple times a day can make a big difference in neck pain.
- What you may find surprising is that exercising one part of your body can positively affect other parts. For example, doing 30-40 minutes of aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, etc.) increases blood flow to all of your muscles. Before you exercise, you may want to apply a heating pad to the neck. This relaxes the muscles and makes them easier to stretch. After exercise, you can then apply a cooling pad to reduce excessive soreness. Remember that exercise can reduce pain more than you might imagine. For instance, one study showed that if people rarely exercise or move their bodies, more muscular tension and higher sensitivity to pain developed.
To help prevent every day neck pain caused by computer or smartphone use, focus on keeping your head up and reading at eye level. Take frequent breaks (every 15-20 minutes), move your neck, and take note of your posture. Make sure your back is supported, get a stand for your laptop, or even lie on your back while texting.
Remember, no one is immune to pain, but together we can overcome it.
Source Information: Spine-Health.com