Fit and fine: How to avoid the pain of a Text Neck
Sunil, a school-going teenager, was addicted to his cellphone, spending hours chatting and playing games on it. He began to notice that his back would be stiff through the day. Soon, the stiffness became a full-fledged back spasm. His doctor diagnosed the back spasm as a result of Text Neck or Forward Head Posture.
Finding the Cause
In the last column, we discussed the cause of lower back pain because of sitting all day long in a slouched posture etc. Most of us do not realise the role played by the correct position of the head and its connection to lower backaches and pains. The head is arguably the heaviest part of the body. Ideally, the ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should be in a straight line.
Every inch the head moves away from the ideal alignment, load on the lower back muscles increases manifold. Kinesiologists tell us that every inch the head moves forward, the head becomes “heavier” by 10 pounds (4.5 kg), making the neck and the entire back work harder to maintain an upright posture. Thus, there should not be any doubt a Forward Head Posture can lead to muscular back pain or even disc herniation in lower back.
Constant use of portable electronic devices is the leading cause of Text Neck and this postural deviation is being noticed in teenagers and young adults. I predict that in the coming years, Text Neck will be a leading cause of neck, shoulder and back pain.
The cure is prevention
· Take regular breaks from texting. In fact, put away your phone when you are in company.
· If browsing the Internet on your phone, change the position of the device frequently – from low to eye level.
Stretch & strengthen
· Stretch the back of the neck by placing both hands on top of the head and gently pulling the head down till the chin touches the chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds, repeat thrice. (add image of neck stretches)
· Stretch the side of the neck by placing one hand on top of the head and pulling gently to the side. Hold this position for 30 seconds, repeat thrice on both sides.
· Release the muscles at the base of the skull by placing a tennis ball between the base of the skull and a wall. Press into the ball with the base of the skull.
· Mobilise the neck by turning to the left and then to the right. Do this for at least 10 counts.
· Strengthen the neck by doing chin retractions. Put your thumb on your chin and gently push the chin in. If you are doing this right, you would feel pressure at the nape of the neck.
· Strengthen the neck – make a fist and support your chin with it. Now push into the fist with our chin, hold for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat push for five seconds and release 10 times. When this becomes easy, use both hands.
This reminds me of the old song Dem Dry Bones: the hip bone is connected to the backbone, the backbone is connected to the neck bone. Thus a misalignment in one part of the body can have an impact somewhere else in the body. Our elders were right when they asked us to stand and sit straight. Time we listened to their age old wisdom.
A strength and conditioning coach for the last 15 years, Kamal Singh, CSCS, specialises in post rehabilitation training and functional training.
This is a fortnightly column. The next column will be out on December 30.
From HT Brunch, December 16, 2018
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