So what? That is the question we get before we tell people about the silent but debilitating long-term effects of this syndrome. Why we are concerned? Because we see YOUNG patients everyday that have signs of the arthritic effects of a relentlessly worsening process. X-rays reveal that high school, and college aged children and young adults have spinal decay that shouldn’t show up before you are at least 55+ years of age. There are 3 things you need to know: 1) What is causing Text Neck? 2) What are the long-term effects? 3) What can I do about it?
What is it?
You might be surprised to know this is a postural repetitive stress injury! To be more specific it’s arguably due to the overuse of mobile devices while looking down, and poor ergonomics while using computers, laptops, etc. As a society our posture is getting worse every day. Why it happens is your spine is constant state of remodeling itself to adapt to various stressors. Think of it this way. If you break your arm the bone is set properly, and a cast is put on to hold it in place, so it will heal correctly. Unfortunately, if the bone is not set properly it will still heal but will be deformed. When you stand or sit with perfect posture your head sits on the Atlas (1st bone in neck) it’s literally holding up your world called the brain. When you repetitively look down at your phone, computer, keyboard you are changing how your body was designed to handle the weight of your head. The normal cervical (neck) curve is not there to distribute the 8 to 10 lbs. that your head weighs. Results – After repetitive abuse the spine starts to remodel to handle the weight. The normal cervical curve is reduced, and more load is applied to lower neck and upper back. X-rays will show bone thickening and hardening in that area. Have you ever seen someone with a buffalo hump?
What are the effects?
Pain is absolutely the worse indicator of this syndrome! The degenerative process starts long before the pain shows up. Remember this is a repetitive stress spinal injury that leads to spinal decay, degeneration, and arthritis if untreated. Pain doesn’t show up until the loss of curve leads to the narrowing of spaces that nerves travel. The bone, muscles, and ligaments are trying to adapt to the new posture but can’t avoid putting pressure on a nerve due to misalignment. It takes bone 3 to 8 years to remodel. So, if it takes that long for the problem to show up as pain how quickly do you think it will take to repair? Surprisingly, relief from pain can be relatively quick. We will discuss this process later. A 2014 abstract study using retrospective database analysis of (n= 9,162 sample) employees from 2001-2009 showed medical, prescription drugs, absence costs including sick-leave, short- and long-term disability and workers’ compensation were evaluated. The average costs were approximately $8,500 with absence-days averaging 6.3 days. In 2010 16.3 million patients visited doctor for neck pain. Multiply those numbers together and you get a lot of zeros (My calculator shows $1.38e11). That number makes my neck hurt!
What can WE do about it?
Now for the good news! This syndrome is preventable and, in many cases, reversible. However, there is not a pill, it will take some work. We recommend X-rays so that you can objectively analyze shape and function of your cervical spine. You can expect measurements to be taken of your cervical curve, and analysis of degeneration phases will be discussed. A care plan will be customized to help you achieve optimal results. Do you have to go see a Chiropractor? No, it’s just our recommendation because that which gets measured gets done. We like to show our patients objective results. Part of the care plan will include Physical Therapy exercises that can be performed to correct posture. We tell people you can spend 3 hours on your phone or computer, but then you must give me 3 minutes of postural neck exercises. I’m not going to stop eating ice-cream, but I know that I need to exercise more to ensure I don’t gain weight, right? Therefore, we strongly encourage our kids, patients and anyone we talk to about neck pain to do chin retractions. That’s a good place to start, but please don’t wait for the pain to start before you begin. Be proactive and prevent the problem! Let’s get your curve back!
Dr. Chris Harris
Co-founder of Apex Chiropractic located 10985 Cody St. Ste 100 Overland Park, KS 66210. Phone (913) 499-1010. Dr. Harris is licensed Chiropractor, and has earned specialty accreditations from Upper Cervical Technique, McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, and Acupuncture Society of America.