That pain in your neck
While reading my Massage and Bodywork magazine, I found an article about Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques. What grabbed my attention is that a theory I learned of about 15 years ago was recently confirmed by Kenneth Hansraj, M.D., chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine. The concept was first theorized by Rene Cailliet, MD. (physical medicine and rehabilitation pioneer) about 30 years ago. Dr. Cailliet states that, “The weight seen by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees.”
What this means to you and me is that for every inch the head moves forward from it’s ideal gravitational center, it feels as if the weight increases by 10 pounds. Conceptually, it’s the same as when you hold a 10-pound weight close to your body, then extend the weight out in front of you. The weight stays the same but the brain perceives it as increasing, thus causing the muscles, ligaments, joints and fascia to work harder to support the weight. This article is using the head as the source of weight example.
Okay, the reason that this is a recent article is the current upward trend of people with “text neck” and “desktop neck.” Lots of folks are spending hours every day scrutinizing their digital devices and creating a scenario where the joints and connective tissues in the neck and back deteriorate and our posture is compromised. The result is a sacrifice of our “uprightness." Because our body is an engineering marvel, the brain perceives this as the new normal and begins to compensate. People are creating an upper-thoracic forward curve and head-pushed-forward posture that becomes very uncomfortable over time.
two examples taken from the magazine article
The patient reported chronic (non-traumatic) head, neck and rotator cuff pain. Note: this person has 20 years of prolonged computer use at her job. She was asked to assume her at-work position and the therapist examined the occipitoatlantal joint (where the head meets the neck). This is where most headaches begin for folks with "desktop neck." This posture appears with a cocked head, jutting chin and a dowager’s hump because the lower c-spine joints are compressed. When gentle pressure was a applied to the C7 area (dowager’s hump) her rotator cuff pain was replicated. Continued stress to this area over time can lead to bone spurs and additional problems.
The patient reported pain when looking up. This problem is opposite from "desktop neck" because the occiput has rolled forward on the atlas (first vertebrae of the neck), and the head is hanging by the ligaments and extensor muscles. Prolonged "text neckers" run the risk of cartilage dehydration and degradation, as well as other problems.
Treatment for these conditions varies from person to person and you need to see your doctor to rule out any condition that may require surgery. Depending on the severity, simple deep tissue techniques along with physical therapy may help. Myofascia release and neuromuscular re-education would probably be required for the more extreme cases. The patient should consider physical therapy in addition to any bodywork therapies.
Finally, if you’re the person constantly checking your digital device, quit doing it! Look up and around you. You’re missing out on what’s going on just a few feet from you. If you are shackled to a computer, get up, walk over to a window and look out periodically. Your posture is dependent on it.
peace and love