A Pain in the Neck… Literally – Why Posture is so Important for Neck Pain!

Tips and Tricks of Massage Therapy
By: Julie Keating

Can you imagine what life was like before computers and mobile devices came along? As a clinician, I can – a lot better posture and less pain! Posture is one of those things that we don’t typically talk about until our bodies begin to show signs of malalignment, inflammation, and chronic pain conditions. When you consider that statistics tell us that more than 80% of people in the United States have a home computer, not to mention using one all day at work, that is a whole lot of time we allocate in one position – slouched in front of it. If you have neck pain, this might be the cause.

Tech Neck, Neck Pain – What is it, What Causes it?

Then, you add to the mix the use of mobile devices. When you see someone looking at their phone, they are almost always hunched over it, arm in the same position, neck looking down, back curved forward, it is easy to see why so many people come to me complaining of neck, back, and shoulder pain.

Americans spend an average of five hours and 53 minutes a day using digital devices, which is up an hour from less than a decade ago. More and more people are experiencing fixed shoulders, headaches, and neck spasms. We refer to the condition as “tech neck,” in our line of work. 

Your Neck is Working Overtime to Position Your Head

When you sit at a computer or look at your phone for hours on end, you lean forward, which requires your neck muscles to continually contract to hold your head in place. The more that you focus down, the harder your neck muscles have to work to keep your head positioned. That can lead to sore and tired muscles, or what we call “tech neck”. 

Once more, most people have been told that they should sit up straight when working on a computer, wrongly by the very clinicians who are trying to correct the situation. When you sit up entirely straight, you put a significant amount of force on the discs of your lower back and your neck also has to work overtime to keep your head in the same spot. That is a recipe for chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain!

 So how do you Prevent Neck, Shoulder, and Back Pain?

The best way to give your muscles a break is to position your chair so that it reclines at about a 25-30 degree angle with lumbar support to stop you from slouching. When you position yourself correctly, you relieve a lot of the stress that you put on your neck and back. Sitting at an angle allows the chair to support your body weight, instead of your spine. 

What are the Symptoms of Neck Pain From Computer Use?

If you are experiencing symptoms of neck spasms, stiff necks, headaches, and pain between your shoulder blades, then your computer and mobile device posture might be to blame. If you sit for long periods, it is also not uncommon to get weakness and or tingling and numbness going down your arm and a pinched nerve in your neck.

Can Tech Neck Lead to Serious and Chronic Pain?

When you hold your neck in a forward position, it puts strain on the discs of your lower back, which can expedite the breakdown of your discs, or even cause them to bulge or rupture. If a disc ruptures and pinches a nerve, it can lead to numbness in the arm, weakness, pain, and ultimately, if not addressed the need for surgery, so YES posture is important. 

Massage and Exercise Can Help!

If you are experiencing pain due to your computer and mobile device use, first, fix your posture! Second, consider the aid of massage and exercise. Massage works to help relax the muscles of your neck, shoulder, and lower back by stopping muscle spasms, working out trigger points that are common, and reteaching your muscles to relax. 

Exercise is an excellent way to flush the chemicals that come with the inflammation and pain of neck and back problems. Just 20 minutes of exercise will help to increase blood flow, flush toxins, and enhance your mood – the two together, massage and exercise, can get you back on the road to recovery quickly!

If you are having symptoms as described above, you don’t have to suffer needlessly, I can help. We can start by evaluating your posture, and then devising a treatment plan to help your muscles relax, recoup, and keep you pain-free going forward. Contact us to schedule your appointment!