Almost every client I see complains of neck pain.
Of course there are tons of causes but one you might not suspect is using your cell phone.
The average human head weighs about 10lbs. We carry that thing around all day...can you imagine carrying around a 10lb dumbbell all day? You would be pretty annoyed, tired and sore. That is how your neck feels. Plus we like to hang our heads down which increases the load on your muscles. The further forward you hang your head the more work your neck is doing.
Our neck has flexor muscles and extensor muscles.
- The flexors pull* your head forward
- The extensors pull* it back.
*"Pulling" in this case is referred to as concentric contraction; the muscle fibers contract and the muscle gets shorter.
In the texting position you use your flexors to pull your head forward, or contract. Once your head is forward, gravity takes over and those muscles are done. They can chill.
So why does my neck hurt if the flexors are chilling?
The flexors may be chilling, but other muscles are working hard to help you to fight gravity. Muscles work in many different ways. In the below diagram the second image is of, concentric contraction which is what your neck flexors (in the front) are doing. All your other muscles are doing other types of contraction:
Isometric contraction is what causes your neck pain after a long day of using your smart phone. The extensor muscles are not being used to pull your head up. They are being used to keep it from falling all the way down and crushing your windpipe. So they are active all day but are not allowed to fully contract or extend.
Great, now I know why it hurts, what do I do about it?
Hold your head up as high as you can.
- Think of balancing it on the top of your spine.
- This way all of your neck muscles can help out.
Stretch out your flexor muscles.
- Lay backwards on a pilates ball.
- Hang your head back off the end of the bed.
- Or just lean back.
If they stay flexed all the time, eventually flexor muscles will shorten and start working against your extensors.
Find opportunities to use your neck muscles in different ways.
- Lean your chair all the way back so that you have to use your flexor muscles to hold your head up.
*in these images we are focused on the neck only
- Sit on a pilates ball during the day so your body is moving around and you are forced to use all your different neck muscles.
- Hold your cell phone up in the air while you are texting (after all, your arms could probably use the exercise)
- Lay on your stomach to type and allow your extensors to actually contract
- Lift your shoulders as hard as you can for as long as you can. Then drop them.
- Take stock of what you are currently asking of your neck muscles; see if you can reduce their work just a little bit.
Get a deep tissue massage with trigger point release.
- This will force the muscles back to their normal state, both in the front and the back of your neck, and allow you to change your posture habits.
- It will break up the muscle adhesions that are preventing these muscles from working effectively
- It will loosen up with blockages in your upper back that are forcing you to hunch.
- You can release some of the muscles in your upper chest (pectoral attachments) that will allow you to bring your shoulders and head back.
- It feels awesome!
*All of this also applies to computer monitors, microscopes, reading books, even eating at a table.
As it turns out, having good posture feels better in the long run. Look how happy Miss Correct Posture is!