Imagine a society where hardly anyone looks where their walking and is constantly staring down at an object in their hands. They experience tension headaches and their bodies have remodeled themselves to look alien-like with their heads protruding forward and shoulders looking like Igor the hunchback. Oh, that’s actually today’s current culture!
Pick up your head and look around. Does your neck hurt just do that motion? Do you find it difficult to hold your head up straight, ears lined up with your shoulders? If you answered yes, then you have forward head position (FHP), which is also called “Text Neck”. Spinal surgeons report an increase in young patients who are experiencing upper back and neck pain due to cell phone use (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). A new diagnosis, known as text neck, has been established to describe this condition (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017).
Muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be altered over time from postural malalignments and injuries. The body adjusts its shape to compensate for how you move and don’t move on a daily basis multiplied by weeks, months, and years. This action is called spinal remodeling, and can work positively to reshape yourself into correct position, and negatively, which is likely your current postural alignment. Spinal remodeling increases the risk for degenerative changes to occur in the spine over the lifespan (Pop, Mihancea, & Debucean, 2018; Stone et al., 2015). Similarly, adults can also develop pain and other musculoskeletal symptoms by maintaining poor posture when working at their desk or workstation for extended periods of time. For example, frequent computer users commonly experience pain in the cervical spine, shoulders, back, and wrist (Borhany, Shahid, Siddique, & Ali, 2018).
How does this affect you in these pandemic times? People working from home are spending more time on their laptops and devices than ever before. Work is stressful enough, and you may think that is the cause of your headaches. Sitting with abnormal head and neck posture while using computers on a regular basis is also associated with higher incidences of headaches (Mingels, Dankaerts, van Etten, Thijs, & Granitzer, 2016). Does this ring a bell for you?
The more we rely on technology, the more we fall into these patterns I’m talking about. The good news is you can overcome them without needing surgery and missing work in physical therapy. An exercise prescription can be the best medicine, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than pills and potions! Here are a few tips to help you deal with FHP:
Foam roll your upper back and shoulders (thoracic spine) 2-3 days per week.
Stretch the muscles of your neck and trapezius by holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds in 1-2 rounds.
Strengthen your scapula by practicing retraction movements. Remodeling back into proper posture is not solely based on stretching. Strengthening the corresponding weak muscles is critical. Perform 2-3 sets of 15 reps with heavy enough weight that you can’t do more than the suggested reps.
Whether you’re currently working out or not doesn’t matter to integrate these stretches and exercises into your lifestyle. If you don’t belong to a gym, don’t worry about it. Use what you have at home to do this simple routine.
To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com. I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies. Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know. Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!