Tech neck is the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long. Children and teens are especially at risk for suffering symptoms of Tech neck. And it seems increasingly common. Recently, a patient came into my practice complaining of severe upper back pain. He woke up and was experiencing severe, acute, upper back muscle strain. I told him I believe the pain is due to the hours he was spending hunched over his cell phone.
Of course, this posture of bending your neck to look down does not occur only when texting. For years, we’ve all looked down to read. The problem with texting is that it adds one more activity that causes us to look down—and people tend to do it for much longer periods. It is especially concerning because young, growing children could possibly cause permanent damage to their cervical spines that could lead to lifelong neck pain and other major health issues such as:
Aches, fatigue, pain
TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain
Altered blood flow
Forward head posture may also contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Forward Head Posture (Tech Neck), Asthma and Heart Disease
One of the most prevalent and destructive imbalances has to do with the cervical curve, the natural curve in the vertebrae of the neck. When we lose the proper curvature of the cervical and lumbar curves, we lose as much as 50 percent of our spinal strength.
For every 2 cm that your head is held forward (rather than balanced properly over the body), it gains 5 kgs of weight. The muscles of your back and neck have to work that much harder to keep your chin off your chest and the muscles of your chin stay in constant contraction, compressing nerves and leading to headaches at the base of the skull or those that mimic sinus headaches.
This “forward head posture,” says University of California’s director of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Rene Cailliet, “can add up to 15 kg of abnormal leverage…” pulling “the entire spine out of alignment” and “may result in the loss of 30% of vital lung capacity.”
The curve of your cervical spine is referred to as “the arc of life” by neurosurgeons because these bones protect the brain stem and are the thoroughfare for spinal nerves that affect every organ and function in the body.
Subluxation is the term for the compression and irritation of nerves because of misalignments of the spine. When the cervical curve is misaligned, the spinal cord stretches and shrinks in circumference, losing nerve conductivity.
Chiropractors make adjustments to the spine and help teach clients posture and habits that reverse these misalignments, restoring the body’s natural functions and healing capabilities.
What Causes Forward Head Posture?
Forward head posture is caused by:
Trauma (Trauma leading to forward head posture can come in the form of car accidents, slips or falls, or even birthing trauma from forceps or vacuums.)
Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Roger Sperry says that “90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.” Only 10 percent of the brain’s energy goes into thinking, metabolism and healing, while 90 percent of brain energy goes into processing and maintaining the body’s relationship with gravity, Sperry demonstrated.
As forward head posture decreases lung capacity, it can lead to asthma, blood vessel problems and heart disease. The oxygen deficit affects the entire gastrointestinal system and can decrease endorphin production. This turns the perception of non-painful sensation into pain experiences, says Dr. Fishman.
A structural chiropractor can measure the curve of your “arc of life,” give you regular adjustments, lead you in spinal rehabilitation exercises, and teach you postural and working habits that will greatly improve your health and quality of life.