With each year comes new generations of phones, tablets, and computers that consume the time and minds of tech-crazed consumers. As these devices have become an even greater part of our everyday experience, so have adverse effects on individuals’ health.
When physicians and health professionals began recognizing a trend of premature spinal degeneration, they deemed the issue “text neck.” This resulted from excessive strain on the ligaments, muscles, and tendons on the neck due tilting the head forward to read or write text messages. The overuse syndrome, now called “tech neck” has developed to encompass the many devices we spend hours craning our necks over.
The online chiropractic publication, chiropractic economics notes that while the human skull weighs about 10 pounds, engaging in forward or downward extension for long periods of time can put up to 50 pounds of gravitational pressure on the neck and shoulders. Carrying that much weight on your upper body leads to symptoms such as chronic or radiating neck, shoulder, and arm pain, increased migraines and headaches, muscle strain, numbness in fingers, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
The good news is, these are exactly the kinds of problems chiropractors work to treat and improve.
Treating the causes of “Tech Neck”
Chiropractors work to treat the whole person and not just their symptoms. This leads to a more wholesome treatment plan that administers acute care while also assisting patients in making lifestyle changes. To alleviate the pain, discomfort, and postural stresses of tech neck, chiropractors will first recommend simple treatments and lifestyle changes.
Initially, these minor recommended adjustments will begin with reducing the amount of time spent on a phone, tablet, or computer. Patients using laptop or desktop computers should work to consciously maintain good posture and take breaks to stretch or stand every half hour or so. Those using cell phones and other handheld technology should keep the devices at eye level to avoid excessive downward extension of their neck.
Additionally, utilizing headphones, a Bluetooth device, or even the speaker function while on a phone call can prevent prolonged periods of time spent craning the neck to one side.
Manual Therapies for “Tech-Neck”
In combination with lifestyle changes, chiropractors will use various stretching and resistance techniques as a lower-impact level of treatment. These simple stretches address swelling, irritation, and tension in the cervical spine, neck, and surrounding musculoskeletal area.
While doing a simple neck flexion stretch, individuals should sit up straight and pull their chin towards their chest, holding the stretch for about 30 seconds. During the neck extension stretch, individuals move their head backward to face the ceiling and hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. In lateral flexion stretches, the individual moves their ear toward their left or right shoulder, feeling a stretch on the opposite side of the neck and holding for 30 seconds on each side.
To complete the set, individuals can add in simple neck rotations, where they turn to look behind each shoulder and hold for several seconds on each side. This is just one set of stretches chiropractors use in practice and recommend for home care, there are many more.
Therapeutic massage techniques and trigger point therapy are also frequently used to relieve and relax particularly tense, painful points on a muscle.
Manipulations, Adjustments, and Other Treatments for “Tech-Neck”
Chiropractors use adjustments to provide relief for those nerves surrounding the thoracic and cervical vertebrae. Especially in cases of “tech-neck,” instrument-assisted adjustments can provide the desired relief. With this method, the chiropractor utilizes a handheld instrument to apply a thrusting force without the direct spinal pressure typical in specific spinal manipulations. Both, however, can be used to treat cases of “tech neck” while properly aligning the upper thoracic and cervical vertebrae.
Each chiropractor will have a different method of approach or workflow, at times beginning in the pelvic area and one of the sacroiliac joints. This often leads to the flexion-distraction technique, where chiropractors gently pump the intervertebral disc without applying an intense amount of pressure. This motion continues up from the sacrum to the middle and upper back.
Using a vibratory percussion instrument is one popular choice for chiropractors in treating tech-neck, as it works like a high-power massager to increase circulation in muscles and tissues throughout the body. This can act as a warm-up to prepare for a head-to-toe adjustment.
Electrical stimulation and ultrasound have also proven to address symptoms with minimal contact and virtually no pain or pressure.
Say Goodbye to “Tech-Neck”
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms previously mentioned, chances are they’ve been building over a considerable period. The first step is to start making lifestyle changes that put your body first and your devices second. This prevents further impact on the affected area.
The next step is to make an appointment with a chiropractor today.