Poor Neck Posture – Why Does It Hurt So Much ?
Poor neck posture leads to a Forward Head Position which is one of the most common causes of neck, head and shoulder tension and pain. This can be a result of injuries like sprains and strains of the neck leading to weak neck muscles, problems sleeping positions and the illustrated examples of driving stress, computer neck, couch neck and readers neck along with improper breathing habits.
For every inch that the head moves forward in posture, it increases the weight of the head on the neck by 10 pounds!
In the example to the left a forward neck posture of 3 inches increases the weight of the head on the neck by 30 pounds and the pressure put on the muscles increases 6 times.
Long term abnormal neck posture leads to straining of muscles, disc herniations, arthritis, pinched nerves and instability. Poor health can result from stretching of the spinal cord. A major part of head, neck, jaw and shoulder pain is due, at least in part, to the effects of poor posture including fibromyalgia syndrome, myofascial pain syndrome, temporomandibular joint dysfunction and chronic fatigue syndromes.
The extra pressure on the neck from altered posture flattens the normal curve of the cervical spine resulting in abnormal strain of muscles, ligaments, bones and joints of the neck causing the joints to deteriorate faster than normal resulting in degenerative joint disease or spondylosis of the cervical spine
Effects Of Poor Neck Posture
Posture is crucial part of normal balance and health. Many postural factors are involved in causing spasms of the neck, shoulders and back muscles, reducing healthy biomechanical function, and weakening soft tissues. These consist of forward head posture, largely due to popular use of computers, sitting at a computer or desk for extended periods, using chairs and desks that are not appropriate for the body type, a non-supportive mattress sustaining poor posture throughout sleep, deconditioning from lack of reasonable activity or exercise, increased emphasis on learning activities considered to be excessive as well as school bags that are too heavy.
Forward head posture is probably the most common posture deviations for individuals suffering neck pain. Individuals with neck and shoulder problems have greater forward head posture than those without these problems.
The effects of poor posture goes far beyond just looking awkward. In fact according to the January, 1994 issue of the American Journal of Pain Management, Posture and function are related in that poor posture is evident in patients with chronic pain related conditions including low back pain, headaches directly related to the neck, and stress-related illnesses. Posture affects and moderates every function from breathing to hormonal production. Spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse and lung capacity are among the functions most easily influenced by poor posture.
|Some Common Causes of Poor Neck Posture|
According to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter Vol. 18, #3, March 2000, the effects of long term forward neck posture leads to “long term muscle strain, disc herniations and pinched nerves.”
Can You Change The Posture Of Your Neck ?
Correction of poor neck posture is key to stopping and reversing the decay and degeneration that neck structures undergo and problems that can result including neck pain symptoms, tension and migraine headaches and pain between the shoulders. When the spinal tissues are subject to significant pressure for long periods of time, they deform and undergo a remodeling in which these changes can become permanent. This is why it takes time and a concerted effort using multiple techniques to correct the poor neck posture condition.
A June, 2009 article in the Chinese Journal Zhongguo Yi Xue Ke Xue Yuan Xue Bao indicates that abnormal neck posture is associated with sympathetic symptom of degeneration which may include; headaches, abnormal functions of the eyes and the ears, and psychological and mental disorders.
Self Test for Neck Posture Problems: The Wall Test – Stand with the back of your head touching the wall and your heels six inches from the baseboard. With your buttocks touching the wall, check the distance with your hand between your neck and the wall. If you can get within two inches at the neck, you are close to having good posture. If not, your neck posture is protruding forward and is subject to deterioration of the joints and discs. The Home Traction Neck Exerciser can help with this problem.
According to the 31st Annual International Conference of the IEEE EMBS Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, September 2-6, 2009; “Over time poor posture results in pain, muscle aches, tension and headache and can lead to long term complications such as osteoarthritis. Physiological and biomechanical stress due to sustained postures limit important musculoskeletal stimuli that are essential for normal musculoskeletal development”.
Neck Posture Solutions:
Awareness of the correct neck and shoulder posture is the beginning of correction. Do the wall test as described above. You can check someone you care about by standing straight and having them look up at the ceiling, down at the floor and then straight ahead. Picture an imaginary line through the center of the shoulder and up to the head. The line should land through the middle of the ear.
A crucial part of correcting poor neck posture is the retraction & nodding neck exercises which are designed to help gain control over postural neck muscles which have become weak and fatigued over time. These tend to be deep muscles that are responsible for maintaining good posture which are often overlooked in exercise/stretching programs. There are some great exercise equipment to help with neck exercises, which can help with training as well as motivation.
For office use and video game play, place your computer monitor height so that the top third of the screen is even with your eyes and the screen is 18-24 inches from your face. It is important to learn more about computer ergonomics
Take frequent breaks. If you sit for long periods, take frequent breaks, even if only for 30 seconds to get up or do the neck exercises. Pull your head over your shoulders and squeeze the blades of your shoulders together in the back.
Maintaining correct posture is not just for the neck. Alignment of the back is important as well, and this can effect the neck and shoulders. A November, 2014 issue of the Journal of Physical Therapy Science featured a study where the authors found that sitting with the legs crossed for more than 3 hours a day can cause shoulder tilt and forward head posture.
Always use a back support pillow when sitting or driving if your seats are not designed properly to support the spine. By supporting the back, the head and neck will move back over the shoulders. If you have difficulty finding a back support that works for you, the Actively Designed Seat Cushion can help activate certain muscles to help support better posture for sitting and prevent muscle fatigue. In the journal Work. Volume 36, Number 1 / 2010, an article titled “Effect of different seat support characteristics on the neck and trunk muscles and forward head posture of visual display terminal workers”, indicates an unstable seat cushion relaxes neck muscles and improves posture better than a spongy soft-cushion seat support. The article further states that this type of seat cushion may prevent work-related neck and upper limb disorders associated with forward head posture.
Many backpacks are improperly designed and cause the head to move forward to compensate for weight in the back. Make sure you and/or your kids use properly designed backpacks that distribute weight evenly and help to prevent strain that begins the process of poor neck posture.
According to a February, 2009 issue of the international journal Cephalalgia, “We found a concerning association between neck pain and high hours of computing for school students, and have confirmed the need to educate new computer users (school students) about appropriate ergonomics and postural health.”
Another February, 2009 article in Cephalalgia noted in regard to Respiratory Dysfunction In Chronic Neck Pain Patients; … “the study demonstrated a strong association between an increased forward head posture and decreased respiratory muscle strength in neck patients.”
The use of specialized equipment like home traction devices are essential to and effective in restoring the normal curve of the neck. This can greatly enhance the process to posture recovery. According to The Journal of Chiropractic Research and Clinical Investigation. 1994 9(1):19-23 in an article regarding the relationship of changes in neck posture in patients with neck pain; as neck pain patients had the normal neck curve restored over a twelve week period, improvements were noted in all measurements of clinical symptoms. The patient’s improvement as indicated by the Visual Analog Scale, Neck Disability Questionnaire, and Pain Pressure Algometry correlated with an increase in the degree of curvature of the cervical spine.
Choosing supportive cervical pillows is very important since we spend about a third of our time sleeping. This time can be used to help your neck posture rather than hurt it with the proper neck pillow support.
If you have a chronic condition like arthritis, cartilage enhancing supplements should also be a part of your long term approach to correcting poor neck posture.
Additionally, I highly recommend Chiropractic Care and you should not hesitate to see one as proper adjustments of the neck joints have proven benefit.
At NeckSolutions, we hope to provide some quality advice and neck pain relief products so that you should be able to effect enough change over a period of time to correct these problems.
Sit up straight.
If you’re reading this article with hunched shoulders and a craned neck, your “computer slump” could one day give way to what some physical therapists call “postural syndrome.”
Postural syndrome is essentiallyto the neck and thoracic spine, or the 12 vertebrae of the mid-back and chest area, from the so-called flex-forward position. Doctors and physical therapists say that the injury commonly targets the fourth, fifth and sixth discs in the thoracic spine, leading to muscle tenderness, stiffness or, in some cases, nerve irritation.
A prolonged slouch over many years causes the disc space to narrow, which in turn can cause nerve irritation that spreads underneath the shoulder blades, down the arms and down the back.
Sure, most office workers and their ergonomic specialists are familiar with the dangers of repetitive motions with a mouse and keyboard at the PC all day, resulting in, tennis elbow or, worse, carpal tunnel syndrome. But some physical therapists say that such injuries lately are taking a backseat to patient complaints of pains in the mid- to upper back and neck.
“We call it the flex-forward posture, where your head’s jetting forward, the abdominals shut down and the majority of the pressure comes to the mid-back,” said Caroline Palmer, a physical therapist at the Stone Clinic, based in San Francisco. “Your spine is going to have to give somehow.”
Frozen at the keyboard
Its concentration in the fourth thoracic spine leads some to refer to it as “T4 syndrome” because it can cause numbness to nerves in the back and arms, and radiate pain to the upper and lower back. Despite the differences in terms, all doctors and physical therapists agree: The human body was not meant for sitting or working in one position all day, and prolonged work at the computer can eventually cause the body to short-circuit.
“It’s not a life-or-death situation,” Palmer said. “It just sucks to have to live with it.”
Postural syndrome, experts say, often goes hand-in-hand with other repetitive stress injuries (RSI) like sore neck, wrists and hands, but it’s far less well known. In many cases, people still don’t think about their posture, physical therapists say.
“People are aware of easy wrist stretches they can do at the desk. But they don’t pay so much attention to their head’s jetting forward and their rounded shoulders,” said Doreen Frank, a physical therapist near Albany, N.Y., who has many patients who are office workers.
As a result, she said, “I see lots of people with cervical thoracic strain and it’s very much related to sustained poor posture at the computer.”
Frank has practiced for 25 years and over the last five years she has seen more people with postural problems than with carpal tunnel. Even her patients who are in good shape and exercise regularly suffer when they sit in a prolonged state of incorrect alignment. Parents, especially, might slouch at work, then drive home with their neck forward, then sit and watch their kids play soccer–again with the neck forward.
Breaking the spell
It’s difficult to say how many people are affected, but anecdotally, more doctors and physical therapists say they are treating patients for postural syndrome, particularly in high-tech areas like the San Francisco Bay Area and New York.
“It’s definitely on the rise,” said Diane Mickle, a physical therapist in New York. “We’re finally putting together the cause and effect.”
Still, other physical therapists say it’s not everywhere. Robert Fleming, another physical therapist based near Albany, said computer-related RSI is typically concentrated in the neck, lower back and arms.
But physical therapists say the answer to the problem lies in education and injury prevention. People need to remember the tenets of good posture from their school days, and take regular breaks every 20 minutes, if possible, from sustained sitting at the computer.
“Even momentary breaks–the most important is to break postural habit,” Frank said.