Incorporate body stabilization and foot alignment into the treatment when determining how to fix the technical neck for patients
For more than 30 years, Technology related to PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones is advancing and spreading to every population around the world. Most Americans now own some type of cell phone, with 85% of them owning a smartphone, compared to 35% in the first Pew Research Center survey in 2011.1 The use of PCs and tablets is implemented in our school systems for almost every age group, and while technology can be a wonderful tool and has positively changed our lives in many ways, the use of these devices has had unintended consequences, and many users wonder how to fix the tech neck after they are in pain when dealing with the Bend your head forward.
Tech Neck is actually nothing more than the posture that develops from holding the head in a forward bent position for a long time. It is receiving more attention today than ever because it affects essentially every age group in our population.
The rise of the tech neck
When largely virtual learning and working from home were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it created an environment that exacerbated the negative effects of PC and tablet use due to inadequate workplaces.
There are countless cases of teenagers sitting over their computers for hours while sitting on their beds. Dining tables and sofas became office tables for many people attending virtual meetings. All of these temporary adjustments unexpectedly stretched over a year, forcing them to become accustomed to poor posture patterns. These patterns contribute to neck pain, headache, upper back and shoulder pain, stiffness, lower back pain, chest tightness, and fatigue.
A recent study of upper body and limb posture through technology and the use of handheld devices among college students found that regardless of the device used – phone, tablet, or laptop – all devices changed posture. However, frequent and regular tablet use caused greater harmful effects than regular use of other portable devices / technologies
A weak posture is a pattern that results from habitual overuse of the flexors of the neck and upper extremities while the extensors are disabled. It’s the classic Upper Crossed Syndrome (USC). UCS occurs when the muscles in the neck, shoulders, and chest shorten, usually as a result of repetitive activity that leads to poor posture.
The muscles of the upper extremities that are typically most affected are the upper trapezius, levator scapula, and pectoralis major and minor, which are contracted and shortened. But don’t forget about the lower extremities and their role in posture. Lower Crossed Syndrome also plays an important role in posture and there are some important keys in evaluating your patients to ensure that we are adequately contracting the lumbar extensors and gluteus large and small muscles and that the hip flexors are not overactive. Patients presenting with this upper and lower crossed syndrome are our classic patients with back pain and neck pain. So let’s talk about quantifying posture and assessing one of the most overlooked factors that contribute to poor posture – the feet.
The role of a symmetrical body foundation
Since the posture begins on the ground, it is important to determine if we are starting with a symmetrical foundation.
Before the scanning technology we enjoy today, the amount of scaphoid drop was measured using a postural stability map with an ink dot on the scaphoid. The map measured the distance the navicular bone descends between sitting and standing, which represents pronation. The most important finding in my experience is that the left and right feet rarely flatten symmetrically. This creates an imbalance that carries the kinetic chain up and affects ankles, knees, hips, pelvis, and spine.
If we fail to assess the feet and, if necessary, provide custom-made orthotics, these biomechanical distortions are replicated every time the patient stands or takes a step. This repetition becomes the neuromusculoskeletal pattern we call posture.
Only when we break the deviant pattern with more efficient use of postural tone will we truly create a strong functional posture. Scanning each patient’s feet with a 3D digital laser scanner ensures that this information is available to make appropriate clinical decisions and effective treatment plans.
Posture has long been considered an important part of chiropractic care, and the health consequences of poor posture are well documented. Pain, movement disorders, and altered physiological functions are major quality of life problems and begin insidiously and progressively.
How To Fix The Tech Neck: Treating Postural Imbalances
Posture can and should be evaluated in all of our patients, and thanks to advances in technology, there are apps that allow us to quantify, document, and then trend analysis as treatment progresses.
We have the opportunity to educate and equip our patients with strategies to improve and protect a healthy posture. In my practice I use a posture app and the most important thing I keep seeing is that the functional head weight is often 2-3 times the actual head weight due to the anterior cervical translation. This often means that a 12-13 pound head will appear to weigh 25-35 pounds or more. This creates a compressive force on the cervical discs and can accelerate the degenerative process over time.
Anterior cervical translation is the result of habitual flexion of the head, resulting in short, taut cervical and upper limb flexors and elongated, inhibited cervical and upper limb extensors. This pattern can be reversed, but it takes a multi-faceted approach to address all of the components involved. It reminds me of the old seesaw in a playground – the influences that create the anterior cervical translation far outweigh the influences that create good posture. It’s time to put in some strategies to balance the seesaw of technical neck and poor posture:
Step 1. Evaluate the feet and prescribe custom orthotics when appropriate. Custom-made orthotics neurologically improve the posture tone with every step your patient takes.
Step 2. Use adjustment techniques that encourage the desired posture. There are techniques that allow us to get the patient into a standing position while the patient practices the desired posture. The sensory input in these positions leads to the awakening of the corresponding postural response.
Step 3. Teach your patients to hold their tablet or phone directly in front of their face while looking at them. It’s not easy, but it’s how to fix the technical neck and in time it can be part of good posture.
Step 4. Don’t forget to support your patients’ posture with orthotics during the day and remember to support them with a suitable neck pillow at night. This promotes the correct neck curve, which is important for good posture.
Step 5. Postural exercises are an important key to creating new neural networks that habitually activate postural tone. Bad posture is a neurological habit that can be corrected by creating new neurological habits. Activating the extensors of the upper and lower body with low-tech resistance training is a highly effective means of improving posture. I encourage my patients to complete a posture training program in the office so that they learn how to do it properly before using the home routines. If our patients want to adopt a new posture, they need to use these exercise routines at home to overcome the time they spend working or studying.
Give patients the right tools
I am encouraged by the response I have received from my patients in their desire to enter into technical neck repair. They want good posture and are grateful to be given the tools they need to do this. The reward comes as we reevaluate their posture and prove it is better.
BRIAN JENSEN, DC, is a graduate of Palmer Chiropractic College and owner of Cave Spring Chiropractic in Roanoke, Virginia, and has practiced for over 30 years. As a member of the Foot Levelers Speakers Bureau, he travels the country and shares his knowledge and insights. See training seminars with Foot Levelers speakers at footlevelers.com/continuing-education-seminars.