In the past few years, we have grown a new organ – our mobile phones, fixed to our hands. When was the last time you left the house without your phone? When we aren't looking at our phones, our eyes are on our laptop screens. And when we aren't looking at screens, we're bouncing around on the roads on our way home from work. (And if you WFH, you get to skip this last step and spend an additional few hours in online meetings).
A recent study found that neck and back pain no longer affects just our grandparents – most new cases came from the 20-30 age group, after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. And in a reversal from what we usually see, most of these cases were patients who injured themselves by sitting still, not by lifting heavy objects or exerting themselves.
In the case of your neck, the muscles at the back of your neck attach to the bottom of your skull, and they work to maintain the position of your head as well as support its weight. The more the angle at which we look down, the greater the weight these muscles have to work against. Check out our Instagram post here (insert link?) to know how heavy your head can be.
Having to work for a longer time means the muscles get tired -this is called fatigue- leading to soreness, spasms and stiffness. This is a condition called text neck, and it also has-
- Forward head and rounded shoulders – in addition to the aesthetic problems this poses, it causes the muscles in front of your neck and shoulders to become shorter and tighter, and the muscles behind the neck to become stretched and weak.
- Pain in the upper back and neck area – certain areas become tender and painful on pressure, called trigger points.
- Reduced mobility – you may face difficulty turning your head or looking up and down.
- Headaches – tight sub-occipital muscles can cause tension headaches.
- Neck pain while sneezing or coughing.
Left untreated, in the long term there is a flattening of the natural backwards curve (kyphosis) of the thoracic (chest region) spine. This can lead to the capacity of the lungs being reduced. There is also more compression of the spinal discs, spinal degeneration and early arthritis.
Other neck pain causes can be –
- Arthritic changes (spondylitis)
- Acute injuries (whiplash, sudden falls, etc.)
- Herniated discs
- Reduced width of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis)
Some of these conditions can cause symptoms like –
- Neck pain with numbness in the arms and hands.
- Pins and needles.
- Loss of strength in the upper extremities.
- Dizziness, nausea.
Experiencing any of the above symptoms is serious, and you need to seek immediate medical attention.
The good news is that this is all PREVENTABLE:
- Take frequent breaks every 20 minutes or so.
- Avoid holding heavier devices in the hand; use a stand.
- Keep screens at eye level to avoid excessive bending. Remember to keep them at least 50 cm away from your eyes.
- Proper lumbar (low back) support is essential. A good tip to remember is to always keep both feet comfortably on the floor and make sure arms are supported.
- Avoid repeated motions with one body part; constant tapping and swiping can affect your thumb. (More on that later)
- Take stretch breaks!
How is physiotherapy going to help?
The first priority is to reduce pain. The second is to prevent the pain from coming back, which is achieved with postural correction, manual therapy and a strengthening regimen. Remember: prevention is the best cure, so paying attention to your posture and continued exercise is the best way forward.
With Healyos, you can have expert physiotherapy at home in Pune, delivered by highly trained and experienced professionals. After a thorough assessment of your condition, they will create a treatment plan that combines manual and exercise therapy in the best way for you. You can also benefit from online physiotherapy services, where your physiotherapist can assist you no matter where you are.