16 Sep Text Neck | An emerging spinal problem
Dr. Michael Bloom of Happy Chiro in Malvern, Victoria talks about “Text Neck”, an emerging spinal problem caused by the heavy use of mobile devices and he offers some tips to improve this slouched posture.
It is entirely possible that the term ‘Text Neck’ will become an official diagnosis in the future. Let’s look at some of the implications of the current trend of the heavy use of mobile devices, long periods of sitting, and a reliance on laptops and computers.
Firstly, to reminisce a little… I recall my mother repeatedly telling me as I was completing my high school years that it was vital I study hard and go to university so that I created a lifestyle for myself that didn’t use my skeleton in highly physical ways.
With respect to trades people and other manual workers, my mum’s words were: “Don’t end up doing hard physical work because your body will be full of aches and pains and you will fall apart.”
Fast forward 20 something years and the irony is that the more physically active we are, the better it is for our health. Conversely, the more sedentary we are, the worse it is for our health.
Perhaps in the 1990’s, as the internet was just evolving, there was no way of predicting the impact that modern technology would have on our health. Personally, I never really noticed so much forward head posture and slouched spine as I do now. Neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain and concerns about posture are far more a part of what we regularly see in our chiropractic offices nowadays. Other than the visual effect of a head forward posture, let’s look into the health implications.
In a study published in the American Journal of Geriatrics titled “Hyperkyphotic posture predicts mortality in older community-dwelling men and women: a prospective study”, the results linked a forward head posture with an increased risk of death related to atherosclerosis. I found it very intriguing that posture can be associated with systemic health issues. The link between posture and disease in part is due to the loss of normal spine movement and therefore a change in brain stimulation due to the postural issues.
Of course, aside from the depressing thought that poor posture can increase risk of disease, it also often leads to pain, stiffness and other musculoskeletal symptoms. But there is hope. As with all health conditions, healing is possible.
Key strategies to implement to improve slouched posture and forward head posture are as follows:
1. Firstly, understand what correct posture looks like so there is a goal to work towards is vital. When viewed from the side, certain landmarks should be located in a vertical line. Middle ear, mid shoulder, hip joint (Trochanter), midline of knee, lateral malleolus (mid ankle).
2. Strengthening the correct muscles. As most people have postural distortion leading to head forward and shoulder rounded, this results in a shortening/ contraction of the muscles forward of the midline (flexor muscles). It also means that the muscles behind the midline (Extensor muscles) are usually weak and under active. Common exercises that strengthen the extensor muscles are rowing, lat pull downs and plank. Also, it is great to do extensor toning using a resistance band.
3. Stretching the correct muscles. Pectoral stretches using a doorway to stretch the pecs. Lying on a foam roller or postural correction aid for 5-10 minutes per day. Stretching the hamstrings.
4. Developing a cue that works for you to remind you on a regular basis to move to the correct posture. What I personally like to use is the analogy that there is a strong helium balloon attached to the top of your head and front of your sternum. The balloon is pulling you skywards.
5. Spend less time on devices or seated at the desk. If your work is desk bound, then set regular break intervals. At least every hour, you should get up from your desk, perform shoulder shrugs and rolls. Move your neck sideways, ears towards the shoulders. Rotate your head so the neck gets some nice twist motion.
6. Movement is KEY. If the joints of the neck and upper spine are immobile, it makes it very difficult to achieve great postural improvement. Embarking on a course of chiropractic care to improve joint mechanics is a vital part of the improvement cycle. Especially useful are rib adjustments as they help encourage a better centre of gravity as well as greater oxygenation.
As I have seen fantastic results in posture correction through my chiropractic experiences, I am as enthusiastic as ever to educate people about the importance of healthy posture, and to encourage people to dedicate resources, time and effort towards improving their posture. After all, better posture means better health.