If your smartphone habit is giving you a pain in the neck, you’re not alone. At our cervical spine specialty practice in New Jersey, we have been treating a lot of patients whose texting and browsing has led to significant neck and spine problems, including bulging discs and muscle strain and pain. It may come as a surprise to you, but your head weighs about 60 pounds and is the heaviest part of your body. Your spine is made to support its weight, but when you tilt your head forward to read your texts or check Facebook, you’re putting excess strain on the muscles: in fact, for every inch you bend your head forward, you increase the strain on your neck by 10 pounds. This widens the gaps in your back while putting additional pressure on the front of your neck, leading to excess contraction of the muscles in your back and shoulders.
Our phones have become an essential part of our lives, so it is unlikely that you can completely eliminate the strain created by looking at it, but you can counter the impact of this stress by adding these exercises to your daily regimen. They each can relieve tension and strengthen muscles, which may help prevent long-term injury and discomfort.
• The Nod – While sitting up straight with your head upright, nod your head up and down to determine what your range of motion is, then hold your chin as far down as you can while still being able to breathe. Hold this position for a count of ten, then slowly come back to a neutral position.
• Pigeon Neck – This exercise may feel awkward, but it can help relieve compression in the spine and cuts down on tension in your neck muscles. Starting in a neutral position, pull your head backwards in the same way that a pigeon does, pulling your chin back and pushing your head straight backwards so that it is over your shoulders instead of over your chest. Repeat several times.
• Postural Correction – This subtle exercise can do a world of good for shoulder and upper back pain. Sit in a straight-backed chair at the edge of its seat, with your legs slightly apart and your feet turned out a bit. Let your hands hang down at your sides with your palms facing forward, then sit up straight. Concentrate on bringing your head back so that it is aligned with your spine, then take in a deep breath and let it go. Repeat 10 times.
• Chest Opening – The goal here is to relieve stress between the shoulder blades. Clasp your hands behind your head and then push your elbows backwards while squeezing your shoulder blades together. To get a better stretch, arch your upper back a bit.
If these exercises relieve your symptoms, then make a habit of doing them at least once a day. If you experience neck or back pain on a regular basis, contact our office to set up a time for a consultation.