Let me explain what a normal Xray of the cervical spine (neck) looks like and why it’s so important.
Notice, this Xray has a very nice forward curvature in the neck that follows the green line. This is the Ideal structure for the neck. When it has this normal lordotic curvature the spine is stronger, it has better range of motion, the muscles aren’t tight, the nervous are relaxed and not pinched and the weight of the head is balanced over the shoulders.
Unfortunately, many people today have necks that look like this. This is the norm for me to see in my office when people come in with neck pain, headaches, pain in the shoulders and arms/hands…etc
The Causes for this:
Usually it’s simply a chronic buildup of a lifetime of microtraumas such as texting for 5 hours a day or sitting at a desk looking down at a monitor all day, driving, watching TV in bed with a bunch of pillows under your head, cooking, washing dishes, eating, tying your shoes…etc anything that involves your head being down
The average head weighs about 12lbs. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 lbs, at 30 degrees it’s 40 lbs, at 45 degrees it’s 49 lbs, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 lbs. So for this Xray here this guys head weighs about 36 lbs instead of the normal 12.
These joints in the front were not designed to carry weight, so overtime they dry up and degenerate. As this happens they become thinner and thinner. This is known as degenerative joint disease or more commonly, Spinal Arthritis. It leads to chronic neck pain, decreased head and neck motion, and headaches
That’s the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone — the way millions do for hours every day, according to research published by Kenneth Hansraj in the National Library of Medicine. Over time, even just a year or two, this prolonged terrible posture WILL lead to reversal of the normal cervical curve in your neck. This will lead to spinal degeneration.
Everywhere I look, I see people with the necks down looking at a phone. Even in my chiropractic practice I still catch patients staring at their phones in the waiting rooms.
If you spend 4 hours per day hunched over your phone reading emails, sending texts or on facebook, that’s 1400 hours per year that you are putting terrible strain on your neck. This is leading to terrible degeneration in the neck that is leading to muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated disks and, over time, it can even remove the neck’s normal curve.
The average human head weighs 10 pounds in a neutral position — when your ears are over your shoulders. For every inch you tilt your head forward, the pressure on your spine doubles. So if you’re looking at a smartphone in your lap, your neck is holding up what feels like 20 or 30 pounds.
Poor posture can cause other problems as well. Experts say it can reduce lung capacity by as much as 30 percent. It has also been linked to headaches and neurological issues, depression and heart disease.
Lets face it, it is nearly impossible to avoid technology today, you can offset the negative effects of cell phone use by seeing a structural chiropractor who will perform specific spinal Xrays to assess your spine. These Doctors will show you normal Xrays and then yours. Then they will explain things you can do to get your spine into a more normal healthy position.
Some things you can do to help:
- Don’t be so addicted to your phone…lol Give it a break
- Lay on your bed with your head hanging off to help stretch.
- A chiropractor will have you use a Cervical Denneroll if your Xray warrants such:
- A structural chiropractor will also prescribe the use of a ProLordotic Exerciser. Dr. Don Meyer says he has “never seen anything more effective for improving chronic neck pain, increasing range of motion, decreasing headaches and restoring normal curvature to the neck.”
Begin seated, or standing, looking forward with shoulders back with good neutral posture. Activate core muscles. Attempt to draw head directly backwards. Maintain level head position. Do not tilt head up or down. Hold for two seconds. Return to start position. Beginners should start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Begin standing in good posture. Shoulders should be back and head up. Bend elbows to 90 degrees and keep elbows near sides. While maintaining good posture, draw shoulders back squeezing shoulder blades together. A stretch may be felt in the chest and front of shoulder. Do not allow shoulders to raise upward. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Beginners should start with 3 sets of 5 repetitions.
Doorway Chest Stretch
Place forearm on wall, or doorway, with elbow bent at 90º. Elbows should be slightly
below shoulder level. While maintaining forearm contact, lean body into doorway until gentle stretch is felt in the chest and shoulder. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Beginners should start with 3 repetitions on each side.
As described earlier, prolonged sitting and its effect on posture is not limited to the upper body alone but also affects the lower body. Tightness of the hip flexors along with an inhibition of the extensor muscles can lead to an aberrant motor pattern know as “gluteal amnesia” according to McGill. (8) He recommends exercises to enhance gluteal muscle function to unload the back in additional to hip flexor mobility with specific psoas muscle targeting.
Here two very effective and easy to perform exercises that clients can do during short exercise breaks throughout the day:
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
Begin standing in front of a chair about 18 inches away. Place one foot flat on the chair or seat. Slowly allow hips to glide slightly forward until a gentle stretch is felt on the front of straight leg. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Beginners should aim for 3 sets each on each side.
Glute Hip Bridge
Begin lying on floor, facing up. Bend knees so feet are firmly on floor and arms extended
- to sides. Activate core muscles. Lift hips off floor to attain a bridge position with knees, hips, and shoulders in alignment. Slowly return to start position. Repeat for prescribed repetitions and sets. Initially, you may develop some cramping in the back of the thigh. A simple hamstring stretch, before and after, may prevent this from occurring. Beginners should aim for 3 sets.
All of the above displayed exercises are easy to execute and include minimal risks if performed as prescribed. Most important here is the regular execution and mid- to long-term adherence to the program. A calendar that reminds clients of the exercises and allows them to check off performed sets and reps could be a nice motivation for them and helps you track their compliance.
Dr. David Cruz – Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) as well as having both FMS and SFMA certifications.