THE TERM TEXT NECK is being used to describe the injuries and pain sustained from looking down at wireless devices for too long. It is also described as a “poor posture” problem that can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration and surgery.
For the most part, Americans are physically uneducated. We know where our heads, stomachs, and hearts are when they begin to ache, but about our muscles we know very little. When did the average person ever get a lesson in muscles? Even the average doctor, unless a specialist in THAT part of the body, knows very little about muscles. Gross anatomy is taught in first year medical school. Cadavers used to be a part of that training however now, training is turning toward the virtual. When you last went to the doctor did he/she actually evaluate your muscle problem by putting his/her hands on you? Or were you simply sent for an x-ray and MRI?
About Your Neck
Ligaments connect bone to bone, are made up of dense connective tissue and do not have a lot of give. When abused, ligaments tend not to return to their original length. The ligaments in the area of the neck act as a brace, hold the spine in alignment, and support the spine when it is in an upright position looking straight ahead. Tendons are more elastic and connect muscles to bone.
The many muscles of the neck act as guy wires and contract and relax to adjust the posture of the head throughout the day. They have some of the greatest endurance of any muscles in the body… unless you abuse them.
In order to bend your head forward, the ligaments must “unwind.” However, once the ligaments “unwind” they are no longer in a position to support the spine. The muscles then have to take over/contract in order to hold your spine and head in position. If the muscles were to fail in their duty, gravity would take over and your chin would be on your chest.
Bonnie Prudden’s insight reveals the importance of muscle care of the neck, that we really are all connected, and that each part of the body is important to the proper function of the rest of the body. She wrote, “The Chunnel is that incredible tunnel beneath the English Channel which connects the British Isles with the European continent. The traffic moves both ways, what is transported is important to both and a stoppage anywhere along the line would be very unhealthy, not to mention potentially lethal. Neither the Chunnel nor our necks function independently of either end.”
“The neck muscles attach at both the head and shoulders. Deep inside are several tubes and one of the major players is the esophagus, which conducts sustenance from mouth to stomach and on occasion, back up again. The trachea is another star. That’s the tube that acts like an airway transporting oxygen via nose and mouth to lungs. In the front of the neck are the vocal chords and at the back, the cervical spine.”
What constitutes abuse to ligaments, tendons and muscles?
My neck received its first abuse when, at about age 7, I came up against a bank of icy snow at the end of my belly down, face first sled ride. I remember seeing stars, having slurred speech and my face had little cuts all over it. Soon after that I began getting headaches and stiff necks. The second shock to my neck came when, at age 19 in a college gymnastics class, my spotter forgot to spot while I was performing an aerial forward flip of some kind. I came down exactly on top of my head. Again I can remember seeing stars and almost passing out.
- PHYSICAL ABUSE
Two of my friends suffered from attempted strangling. This not only hurt their neck muscles, tendons and ligaments, it affected their voices, breathing, swallowing, and patterns of pain and posture.
- OCCUPATIONS AND HOBBIES
Very few of us are immune from neck pain but some occupations and hobbies are practically guaranteed to give you a pain in the neck. Violists, accountants, jewelers, potters, artists, knitters and crocheters, bike racers all add extra strain to already fragile necks.
Some sports ask for neck trouble. Football, soccer, wrestling, weight lifting, boxing, diving (without enough water) are some of the most damaging.
At the beginning I gave you the following information (which is where MIS-USE and OVER-USE come in):
The term TEXT NECK is being used to describe the injuries and pain sustained from looking down at wireless devices for too long. It is also described as a “poor posture” problem that can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration and surgery.
Misuse and Overuse
This is regularly what we do to ourselves and mostly due to ignorance. Misuse and overuse most often occur when we do too much of one thing and/or in the wrong way or to extremes without balancing or acting in some way as to compensate for the too much, too extreme or required moves and/or positions.
For instance, bike riding is great but during the joy of your ride of many miles, the legs never straighten. Over time the powerful hamstrings (the muscles in the back of your upper leg) overwork and tighten up. Unless you stretch the hamstrings often they will foreshorten, affecting your gait, low back and athletic performance.
About Your Posture
Your posture does NOT start in the neck. And it does not start at age 15. It begins in the womb and is helped or hindered by our way of life and its stresses both emotional and physical. The key posture muscles are abdominals, psoas, upper back, lower back and hamstrings. These are the muscle groups that, if they are in good shape (strong and flexible) keep you standing upright, balanced with the head atop. They allow you to move about all day comfortably and without strain. Function precedes form. Long before we can see poor posture, the cause – usually weak and inflexible muscles – is in place and the muscles are doing a less than minimum job.
Texting Without the Pain of Text Neck
If you want to text without pain and without damage to your neck, you need to do three things.
- First, make sure your key posture muscles are in good shape. See my blog from May 2013: Where are My Muscle Weaknesses and What Do I Do About Them? Another blog that would be helpful is from November 2014: The Way You Move Speaks Volumes.
- Second, take time to do the exercises shown here on this blog. Since you will be doing only four reps at a time, they will only take you seconds. But to remind the muscles to stay relaxed and pain free, you need to perform them often throughout the day.
These exercises are designed to:
- Give your muscles a break from your texting and computer work,
- Provide a variety of movement (muscles love variety)
- Prevent pain
- Increase flexibility and strength of neck muscles
- Third, address the trigger points that have accumulated in your neck and shoulder muscles from years of neglect. To get started, check out the two videos on our website for Head, Neck and Shoulder Pain. Both videos show you how to locate the trigger points, treat them and do the corrective stretches to help your muscles regain their normal function.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help.
Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®