Lifestyle, Physio's Personal Tips, Physiotherapy, Stability, Work

Avoiding a Pain in the Neck

The link between neck pain and technology use.

laptop-postureNeck pain is becoming more prevalent in recent times and much of it is linked to the poor postures we adopt when using technology.

On average, we spend 15 hours a week in front of a screen (almost 1 month of the year), and up to 50 hours a week if it is required for work. When using technology, our eyes need to be in an optimal position to focus on the screen. For most of us, it is easiest to poke our chin out to get closer to the screen.

For each inch that your head sits forward of its normal position, the head adds 4.5kg of force onto the small and fragile structures within your neck.  All of this added pressure can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, arm pain and headaches from the muscles in your neck having to work harder and the added pressure placed on the discs, nerves and vertebrae.

ForwardHdEv

If you are someone who spends a lot of your hours in front of the screen, behind the wheel or on the couch, there are some strategies that you can adopt to ease the pressure on your poor neck!

Activation of your Deep Neck Flexors

Your deep neck flexors are muscles in front of the spine responsible for neck stability (similar to the role of the deep abdominals in your lumbar spine) and supporting the head directly over the spine.  When your neck is over your spine, the pressure on other parts of your neck and body will be reduced.

Activating them can be difficult if you are doing so for the first time, so follow these simple steps:

Step 1 – Lie down on your back with a pillow underneath your head and neck, legs bent up and muscles relaxed.

Feeling Neck FlexorsStep 2 – Tuck your chin in so it feels as though it is lightly blocking your windpipe and push the back of your skull into the pillow.  Do NOT activate the muscles at the front of your neck.  Place your fingers on these muscles if necessary to stop them from activating.

Step 3 – Hold this position for 5 seconds before relaxing.  Repeat 10 times before having a rest, then complete 1-4 more sets of 10 until fatigued.

Chin Retraction

Chin Retraction – make a double chin, hold for 5 secs, then relax

Constant awareness of your neck position

When in the car, use the head rest and tuck your chin in.  When at your desk or when using technology, make sure you are not protruding your chin to see the screen.  And, when you are sitting on the couch make sure your head is in a good position and is supported appropriately.

Set up your environment correctly

Move the items in your environment (screen, mouse, keyboard, chair) so that you can maintain a good posture and still work efficiently.   Laptops and tablets force poor posture as looking down at the screen and typing so close prevents good posture. Purchasing a wireless keyboard to use with your tablet to separate hands and screen, increase the font size on your smartphone, correct the angle of your screen on your laptop and position pillows properly when sitting on the couch to provide low back support..

Ergonomics1

Take regular breaks

Increasing the amount of time that the structures in your neck are under pressure will increase the likelihood of developing pain.  Scheduling regular breaks will allow your neck to have a rest and to relieve the strain.

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If you do suffer from neck pain due to poor posture, these strategies will help you.  Poor posture, however, is not the only cause of neck pain and if pain persists we do recommend consulting your physiotherapist for a full assessment.

Post by Mitchell Sandvoss (B. Physiotherapy)

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One thought on “Avoiding a Pain in the Neck

  1. There’s another problem associated with screen use – thats ‘Screen Aepnea’ – forgetting to breathe or breathe deeply enough. The brain gets starved of oxygen as a result therefore compromising our performance. So standing up and stretching not only does your back and neck a good turn, it also expands the lungs.

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