The neck, also known as the cervical spine, starts at the base of your skull and consists of seven small bones. These seven small bones hold the very important task of supporting your entire head which weighs approximately 12 lbs in an upright position. The neck muscles themselves are posture muscles which mean they are not strong muscles. Even delicate injuries can recent from everyday activities. Between daily stress, injuries, improper sleep, and a host of other factors, neck pain is exceptionally common in adults and children.
Our team at Innate Life Chiropractic are experts when it comes to neck pain. We help people with neck injuries resulting from poor posture, mental/emotional stress, car collisions, and even whiplash injuries.
Common Causes of Neck Pain
The most common causes today are poor posture and poor head placement. People often spend hours on their phone with their head tilting downward. In this position, the head feels like it weighs 20-35 lbs instead of its normal 10-12 lbs. As a result, neck pain occurs.
Neck pain can also occur from work-related, auto, or sports-related injuries. These often start with a sudden “pull” and general building of the pain intensity. If left untreated, these develop into the frozen neck syndrome.
The third type of neck pain is caused by spinal misalignment. When the cervical bones are not in the proper position, they put pressure on the surrounding nerves. They pinch the nerve, causing pain and muscle spasm. This pressure can cause damage to the nerves flowing into the shoulder, arm, and hand. Symptoms like tingling and numbness of the hand and fingers are very common.
The most common reasons that people experience neck pain include:
- Text Neck: Looking down at mobile devices too long can strains your neck muscles. The average is now close to four hours on our cellular devices.
- Whiplash: This condition typically affects people who have been in car accidents or personal injuries. Whiplash causes small tears to the muscles and ligaments of the neck, causing neck pain, swelling, muscle spasm and limited range of motion.
- Stress: Job related, family, and just life in general. Stress causes the muscles to become alert and constantly ready for action, resulting in pain in the neck, back and head.
- Muscle strain: Muscle strain again very similar to whiplash but limits itself to torn muscle fibers.
- Subluxations. A subluxation is what happens when the vertebrae puts pressure on the nerves exiting the spinal cord.
- A bulged or herniated disc: This occurs when a vertebral disc protrudes from the tough casing that encloses it. This condition usually involves upper extremity radiating symptoms like pain, numbness, and tingling.
- Improper sleep: Your body regenerates and heals at night. If you are not getting 6-8 hours of restful sleep, you will have neck pain.
Tech Neck – An Unwanted Side Effect of Technology
We live in a high speed, ever changing world of technology. Tablets, phones, laptops and smart-watches are a staple in American life and they aren’t going away any time soon. Studies have shown that the average mobile phone user in the United States, looks down at their phone for an average of 2.7 hours per day.
Pause for a moment. Gaze down at your smartphone. Observe what happens to your neck. When you look down, your neck goes into flexion, which means that the normal C-shaped curve reverses, causing pulling in your neck. Your thoracic spine slouches, your shoulders roll forward, and your chin tilts upward into a forward head position. Your head is no longer supported over your body; rather, it is positioned far forward, putting strain on your neck, shoulders, and back. This positioning causes adverse stress on the joints, muscles, and discs if you remain in this position for more than 20 minutes.
This increased pressure in the joints then puts pressure on the nerves, discs and muscles attached to the spine. Tightness in the musculature results in pain and stiffness in the neck, arms, shoulders, and back. Furthermore, this positioning can lead to headaches.
Normally, when the ears are aligned over the center of your shoulders, the average head exerts 10-15 pounds of pressure on the neck; about the weight of a bowling ball. Imagine if your head moves forward over the center of your shoulders even by 1 inch. This 1 inch of forward head posturing can increase the weight of the head by as much as six times.
If left untreated, over time, ‘Tech Neck’ can cause long-term damage to your spinal cord- the transmitter of communication from the brain. Side effects of spinal cord strain include but are not limited to, headaches, tingling in the hands/wrists, spasms in the shoulders, arthritis and even a decreased lung capacity.
The good news is that ‘tech neck’ is a curable condition. It can be avoided with preventative care, and reversed with non-surgical, chemical-free, chiropractic care.
Symptoms of Tech Neck
– Upper back and/or neck pain when using a handheld device
– Sharp pain in the neck or shoulders at nighttime
– General shoulder pain and tightness
– Headache (intermittent or constant), which is worsened when the head is bent down towards a computer or smartphone
– Numbness and tingling in the arms, hands, or fingers
How to Prevent Tech Neck and Neck Pain
Be mindful of your posture. When using mobile phones, computers, or tablets, keep from hunching over or slouching forward. Additionally, try this lumbar hack. Place a soft, 3-inch material, such as towel or sweatshirt, between your lower back and your chair. This gives your lumbar spine a support boost.
Position Your Devices at Eye Level
The best option, if you are able, is to get a standing workstation. A standing workstation keeps your spine straighter than if you were sitting in a chair. If this isn’t possible, elevate your monitor using a monitor stands, so that it is at eye level. This keeps your head from tilting forward, keeping you out of neck flexion.
Throughout your day, be sure to take periodic breaks from your devices; walk away from your standing desk, or stand up from your sitting desk and stretch a little bit (see below). If it is hard to remember to stop what you’re doing, set calendar reminders at regular intervals.
One of the most effective preventative measures you can take is to integrate a quick stretching routine, like the one below, into your day.
- Stand tall, arms to your side
- Reach your hands behind your back, and grasp your right wrist with your left hand
- Gently pull your left hand with your right hand and tilt your head to the left
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Switch hands and repeat
Throughout the day, periodically doing a ‘chin tuck’ can also help, as it strengthens the postural muscles in your neck. It also takes only a few seconds to do.
- Sit up straight
- Gently, do not force, nod your chin downward, towards your sternum
- Hold for a few seconds, then release
Low impact exercise
Exercises like Pilates and yoga can help your body counteract the effects of device usage. Many of the poses lengthen the front muscles of the neck, realign the shoulders, and free the lower cervical vertebrae.
Regular chiropractic care
Chiropractic care has been clinically proven to effectively prevent conditions like tech neck, as well as other painful conditions that impact the neck, spine and back. Regular chiropractic adjustments return your body to it’s natural state and help restore your optimal health.
Already have it? Chiropractic care may help!
Chiropractic care focuses on relieving the nervous system of stress caused by physical, chemical and/or emotional trauma. ‘Tech Neck’ is considered a physical trauma to the body. The forward head positioning of ‘Tech Neck’, pulls and stretches the spinal cord. The chiropractic adjustment seeks to realign the spine while also stimulating the the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body!
Chiropractors can help you develop a plan for your workstation and/or home so that you can avoid the habits that cause stretching of your spinal cord.
While ‘Tech Neck’ may be a concept for you, chiropractors are quite familiar with the signs and symptoms of tech neck, and have the competency to help you resolve it.
Neck Pain Help at Innate Life Chiropractic
At Innate Life Chiropractic in Palatine, our chiropractor will perform an examination, InSight neurospinal scans, and evaluate your posture to discover where your body is out of balance. After analyzing the findings , Dr. Nathan will develop a care plan to help improve the health of your body, spine, nervous system and quality of life expression.
“Every adjustment is a positive input to the physiology.” – Dr. Arno Burnier
Tonal Chiropractic Adjustments
This approach looks at the overall tone of your nervous system. Is your body stuck in a sympathetic overdrive of “Fight or Flight” or over-exhuasted from a parasympathetic hibernation? Tonal chiropractic allows your body to find the harmony between these two extremes, while also relieving abnormal tension on the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. This allows your brain and body to be more adaptable and resilient. Digestion and elimination are both normal functions of the body, however can be interfered with when the nervous system is running “fight or flight” all the time. Dr. Nathan uses a combination of MLS, Network Spinal Analysis, Biogeometric Integration, and MC2 to help your nervous system shift from stress to healing.
Dr. Nathan will adjust the vertebrae in the affected area to increase your range of motion and take pressure off the spinal nerves. He will also focus on any imbalanced zone(s) of your body. Every cell in the body falls into at least one of the 6 zones: glandular, eliminative, nervous, digestive, muscular and circulatory. Dr. Nathan will determine which zone is either out of balance or needs a boost. In this way not only may immune function improve, but all functions in the body may improve.
At Innate Life Chiropractic, we focus on your innate ability to heal, grow, and thrive. Everything we do is in service to unleashing that potential. Contact Palatine’s premier family chiropractor for help with neck pain today.