As we continue to spend more and more time using smart-devices and computers, more and more patients come in to Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland with localized neck pain. With appropriate testing, we can determine if these symptoms are related to degeneration of the discs or due to arthritis of the facet joints. A focused, team approach can be put into action to help improve and better control your symptoms.
But wait! Treating symptoms after they occur still doesn’t address ways in which we can help prevent them from happening in the first place. In this digital age, patients spend hours on cell phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, and even old-fashioned paper books! When doing so, patients tend to hold these devices down such that their heads are fully flexed forward (where your chin almost touches your chest). Simply put, too much time spent in the position places a lot of stress on your neck and spine. Discs are put under increased pressure – which can cause them to degenerate and even herniate. Stress on the ligaments inside the spinal canal are stressed and cause central stenosis. Finally, the facet joints are stressed which causes stress on the muscles in the back of the neck and shoulder.
What can be done? When it comes to cell phones and similar devices, please raise them up so that your neck is in a straight (or neutral) position. Laptops should be up on tables or counters and elevated so that the screen is at eye level. While at work, or with your home desktop computers, please make sure your monitors are raised so that your eye level matches the bottom 1/3 of the screen.
For the time that you do spend looking down and on your devices, take time during the day to look up, to stick your chest out, to put your shoulders back, and to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Try a foam roller lengthwise along your back and lay back so that your shoulders fall down on either side of the roller.
If you go to the gym or exercise each day, simple strengthening exercises can also be added: lat pulldowns, seated rows, and bent over dumbbell/can rows. These strengthening exercise will help to build the weakened muscles in the back of the neck and between the shoulder blades.
If you are guilty of too much digital time or if you are already suffering from these symptoms, please come and see the Spine and Pain specialists at Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland. For compassionate and caring spine care, call (410) 644-1880 or request an appointment online.