To Your Health
July, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 07)
Your Body Is Sending You a Message
By Dr. Dean Fishman
Text messaging, video gaming, surfing the Internet - with technology comes repetitive behaviors and body positioning that can have dramatic health consequences, not the least of which is a condition known as forward head posture. Just think about it: hours on end with your head down, neck scrunched, staring at a tiny phone, iPod or other device; you're just asking for trouble. Your body is sending you a message - it's time to answer it before you end up in pain.
Neck Pain Caused by Texting
|Fast Facts: The Consequences of Forward Head Posture
1. Long-term forward neck posture leads to "long-term muscle strain, disc herniations and pinched nerves." (Mayo Clinic Health Letter, March 2000)
2. In regard to respiratory dysfunction in chronic neck pain patients, a recent study "demonstrated a strong association between an increased forward head posture and decreased respiratory muscle strength in neck patients." (Cephalgia, February 2009)
3. "For every inch of forward head posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds." (Kapandji, Physiology of the Joints, Volume 3)
4. "Loss of the cervical curve stretches the spinal cord 5-7 cm and causes disease." (Dr. Alf Breig, neurosurgeon and Nobel Prize recipient)
5. "90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine," says Dr. Roger Sperry, Nobel Prize recipient for brain research. Dr. Sperry demonstrated that 90 percent of the energy output of the brain is used in relating the physical body to gravity. Only 10 percent has to do with thinking, metabolism, and healing, so when you have forward head posture, your brain will rob energy from your thinking, metabolism, and immune function to deal with abnormal gravity/posture relationships and processing.
6. According to Rene Cailliet MD, director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Southern California, forward head posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine. This can pull the entire spine out of alignment. FHP results in loss of vital capacity of the lungs by as much as 30 percent. This shortness of breath can lead to heart and blood vascular disease. The entire gastrointestinal system is affected; particularly the large intestine. Loss of good bowel peristaltic function and evacuation is a common effect of FHP. It causes an increase in discomfort and pain because proprioceptive signals from the first four cervical vertebrae are a major source of the stimuli which create the body's pain controlling chemicals (endorphins). With inadequate endorphin production, many otherwise non-painful sensations are experienced as pain. FHP dramatically reduces endorphin production.
7. FHP has been shown to flatten the normal neck curve, resulting in disc compression, damage and early arthritis. Spine, 1986)
About two years ago, I started to notice that more and more young people were coming to my office with similar complaints. They all had neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, and/or numbness and tingling into the upper extremity. While discussing my findings with one of these young patients, her mother asked me, "Well, what does she have?" I looked over at the patient and noticed that she was buried in her cell phone with her head flexed forward - texting. With that, I replied, "It's simple. She has text neck." I pointed out to the patient's mother that at 16 years old, her daughter had a reversed cervical curve with mild degenerative changes, and that she was too young to be experiencing these bony changes. I then asked the patient how often or how much she texts. She replied that she texts all day long, and that it is her primary mode of communication.
These days, people are constantly "connected" to their hand-held devices, whether it is their cellular phones, portable video games like Nintendo DS, e-readers such as Amazon Kindle, or they are just using apps on an iPhone. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that young people 8-18 years old spend in excess of seven-and-a-half hours a day using some form of mobile media. As a result, this younger demographic will surely be developing a condition known as forward head posture (FHP), which can cause the above symptoms and more.
As technology advances in the market of hand-held mobile devices, it's important to understand that where the head goes, the body will follow. If you have forward head posture, then you will have rolled shoulders. With rolled shoulders, a concave chest can follow, and often a pelvic tuck, all of which can contribute to progressive pain and dysfunction over time.
Text messaging was reported to have addictive tendencies in the Global Messaging Survey by Nokia in 2001, and was confirmed to be addictive in a study conducted at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium in 2004. Since then, a study at the University of Queensland in Australia has found that text messaging is the most addictive digital service. It has been compared to being as addictive as cigarette smoking. The text reception habit introduces a need to remain connected, called "reachability."