Why is texting a pain in the neck?

Why is texting a pain in the neck?

Have you experienced the text neck or the tech neck? Dr Prathap R Addageethala suggests ways to alleviate the pain

health

With modern age technology increasing its grasp on our everyday lives, our dependency on staying connected is strong. While this has made our lives easier in many ways, it has certainly had a few drawbacks. One of the most prevalent drawbacks is the effect ‘tech neck’ — and its predecessor ‘text neck’ — have had on the occurrence of neck pain. Indeed, neck pain is among the most reported issues to doctors worldwide.

The major reason that we are susceptible to neck pain is the basic anatomy of the region. Our head weighs between 4-6 kg, and it balances on a tiny column of bones, called the cervical spine. Between the bones in our spine, there are flexible pieces of cartilage called discs, which allow us to move around smoothly and provides cushioning during motion. Because of the heavy weight of our head, and the effect of gravity pulling down from there, the cervical spine is always at a risk of injury.

Degeneration

Stop for a second. Think about where your head is positioned over your body. Are your ears in front of your shoulders? If they are, you are in a position called forward head carriage and it’s hurting your neck! Posture has been scientifically proven to play a role in the ageing process of your spine called degeneration. While it’s true that everybody’s spine degenerates to some degree naturally, there are factors that can influence the rate of degeneration. Poor posture and stress can impact how fast your spine degenerates by placing too much stress on sensitive areas in the neck.

Another significant side effect of tech-neck is headache. As much as 95% of headaches could be caused by tension in the joints and muscles of the head and neck. Sitting in a position for a prolonged period can fatigue the tiny postural muscles in the neck, leading to spasm and weakness. By doing this on a consistent basis, we prevent the natural restorative ability of the muscles, and create a postural syndrome which combines tight, painful muscles, with weak and fatigued muscles. Dealing with pain is tiring. Chronic neck pain sufferers usually have a level of inflammation and stress higher than that of the average population. Chronic neck pain can start a vicious cycle wherein the elevated pain levels increase stress, and stress in response releases a hormone called cortisol. It is literally nicknamed ‘the stress hormone’ for this reason. Cortisol increases the amount of inflammation in the body, which further increases pain.

When the jaw hurts...

Jaw pain is another common cause for neck pain. The TMJ (or temporomandibular joint) is a sensitive joint that is active while opening and closing the mouth. The other major function for the jaw is chewing. Habitually eating crunchy or chewy foods is one way to wear out the muscles that move the jaw, but often, people with elevated stress levels tend to clench their jaw or grind their teeth (a process called bruxism). This increased amount of work for the jaw puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ, which connects to the cervical spine by tiny muscles that are easily stressed. Staying hydrated, taking regular breaks from sitting, and eating a healthy diet are ways to reduce the damaging effects of tech neck.