Your neck could weigh up to 42lbs on your spine!Dr. Anna Neff
It’s a hardly noticed posture: sitting at your computer jutting your head forward to look more closely at the screen, or dropping your head down to text on your phone. This seemingly harmless posture can cause compressions in the neck and lead to headaches, fatigue, irritation, poor concentration, and injury to the spinal vertebrae.
Because of the complexity of the neck, it’s no wonder that a Canadian study reported that 2/3 of patients experience some sort of neck pain in their lifetime, and the age demographic of these patients is getting younger!
Proper posture keeps the muscles supportive of your back and neck, and is able to hold the weight of your head—as much as 12 pounds. When your head juts forward and downward at a 45 degree angle, your neck behaves like a fulcrum—like a long lever lifting a heavy object at the end of it. Now the muscle and bone weight of your neck and head is the equivalent of about 42 pounds! It’s not surprising to chiropractors that people see them regarding stiff necks, headaches, and shoulder pain.
Many instances of neck pain can start from something minor, but postural positions can set your neck muscles up to respond differently to activities that, otherwise, would not cause pain. For instance, we sleep 1/3 of our life, and many people find it difficult to find a comfortable position or pillow to support their head and neck, and suffer from pain just from trying to sleep!
A study published in the journal, Biofeedback, asked 87 students to sit upright with their heads properly aligned on their necks, and asked them to turn their heads. The students were then asked to “scrunch” or compress their necks and jut their heads forward prior to turning their heads. 92% reported turning their heads much further when not scrunching. In the second test, 125 students were asked to scrunch their necks for 30 seconds. 98% reported some level of pain in their head, neck or eyes.
The researchers also studied 12 students with EMG (electromyography) equipment and found that trapezius (shoulder) muscle tension increased in the scrunched/compressed head forward position.
The role of the neck is to protect your spinal cord and nerves. Even a slight injury to your neck may have major effects on other anatomical structures, like ligaments and nerve roots, and your overall health. The neck also houses many vital anatomical structures, such as, glands, vocal box, esophagus and trachea, as well as spinal and cranial nerves.
Proper treatment of any condition involves treating the cause, and not just the symptoms. Chiropractors are uniquely trained to diagnose the cause of your neck problems and most often, xrays are not necessary. In most cases, prolonged or re-occurring neck pain is due to joint or nerve irritation, muscle strain, and ligament sprain. This can also lead to other symptoms in other parts of the body such as, the shoulder, arm and hand. Numbness, tingling, weakness and pain, are all symptoms that can lead from disturbances in the nerve conduction from the spinal cord in the neck.
Along with chiropractic care, you can do something about this poor posture condition very quickly. To increase body awareness, it is advised to purposefully replicate the head-forward/neck scrunched position. You can exaggerate the position and experience the symptoms. Then, when your find yourself doing it, you can become aware and stop!
Another solution to desk workers, it to increase the font on your computer screen, wear computer reading glasses, place your computer screen at eye level, and sit in a chair with good lumbar support that will help your seated posture become straighter and help bring your neck into alignment on top of your spine.
There is also an app you can download on your phone called “Simply Align”. It keeps track of your phone’s motion to detect bad posture and reminds you to correct your posture at set interval. Remember, Eyes Down Head Up!