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The use of smartphones and other handheld devices, especially in an ultra-tech age like ours, increase the tendency of staying seated for long. This in turn also increase the chances of spinal mal-alignment and countless musculoskeletal injuries.

Have you ever had a terrible neck ache after spending a long day with your necked propped in every awkward posture possible especially when in front of a laptop or phone? Or after having a new hairstyle like box braids tightly installed?

Well the latter happened to me and it was quite annoying I must say. I realized after about 2 days that my hairstyle, which made me keep my head in an awkward forward position, was the cause of the neck pain.

Neck pain or ache is felt in the area below the head (below the back of the head) and can also involve the sides of the neck, the shoulders and even trail down the arms. Neck pain can also be as a result of a Forward Neck Posture (FHP).

The FHP is an internal factor that causes dysfunction with shoulder and neck. An FHP results in a posture in which the extended head, upper cervical, and the lower cervical vertebrae flex or bend forward.

Now this posture constantly allows for excessive loading and causes a change in the biomechanical movement of the head and neck. This increased loading or stress can cause musculoskeletal damage or pain.

Neck pain can be caused by poor posture such as a forward neck posture, excessive head load (also known as axial loading) from carrying heavy objects on the head, trauma causing injury such as falls or accidents and underlying bony diseases.

It often affects young adults and older adults depending on the cause. Some studies indicate that woman are more likely to have or suffer from neck pain. Individuals who are involved in repetitive lifting, office and computer work, manual labor and athletic activity are also prone to having neck pain.

Neck pain can be sharp on movement, stabbing, throbbing, dull, aching or throbbing. People with neck pain can experience a few of these signs and symptoms all at the same time or separately:

  • Difficulty moving the neck upwards, sideways, backward or forward
  • Muscle spasms around the neck
  • Stiffness: feeling like the neck is fixed in one position
  • Tight muscles around the neck
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping at night and soreness during the day
headache
Headache can be a symptom of neck pain

It is important to note that signs and symptoms of Mechanical neck pain as a result of poor posture or even FHP differ from those caused by nerve irritation (known as radiculopathy).

Radiculopathy or nerve irritation in the neck would also cause neck pain but with other neurological symptoms such as numbness or tingling sensation in the neck, shoulder, arms or hands, weakness in the arms and other symptoms associated with radiculopathy.
Radiculopathy refers to a set of conditions in which one or more nerves in a particular area of the body appear pinched, inflamed or irritated.

What can you do?

• The first thing is to identify the cause of the neck pain (is it due to poor posture, tension, after an accident, or other pathology?)
• Improve your posture or eliminate the cause of the awkward posture or adopt better posture for optimal function
• Stretch and rest adequately all neck muscles regularly
• See a physiotherapist or physician

A physiotherapist can help you
A physiotherapist can help you

Sources

  • Eltayeb S, Staal JB, Hassan A, de Bie RA. Work related risk factors for neck, shoulder and arms complaints: a cohort study among Dutch computer office workers. J Occup Rehabil 2009;19(4):315-22.
  • Kang JH, Park RY, Lee SJ, Kim JY, Yoon SR, Jung KI. The effect of the forward head posture on postural balance in long time computer based worker. Ann Rehabil Med 2012;36(1):98-104.
  • Chiu TT, Lam TH, Hedley AJ. Correlation among physical impairments, pain, disability, and patient satisfaction in patients with chronic neck pain. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2005;86(3):534-40.
  • Bae YH, Lee GC. Effect of Motor Control Training with Strengthening Exercises on Pain and Muscle Strength of Patients with Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. J Korean Soc Phys Ther 2011;23(6):1-7.
  • www.moveforwardpt.com. The physical therapists guide to neck pain.