By: Cecilia Yu
A new side effect of the ubiquitous smart phone called “text neck” is the result of constantly looking down onto the screen at an uncomfortable angle. Because summer travel may present long waits at airports and riding long distances while texting and gaming, the potential for de- veloping problems associated with the poor positioning of the head and neck increases. Handheld devices are particularly problematic because of their small size and the fact that they are often held while hands are resting on the lap. This means the screen is positioned at an angle requiring the viewer’s head to be tipped downward in order to see the small screen.
If we were to look under the skin and see this problem as an architect would see weight distribution of a bridge or build- ing, we would note that the head, which usually weighs eight- to-14 pounds, is cradled, supported and attached to the rest of the body by a two-ounce atlas bone, or cervical bone 1 (C1). This bone not only supports the head, but also surrounds the brain stem, so any disruption of the head and neck relation- ship can also disrupt neural flow to any part of the body. Some of the life events that often act upon this little bone include
forces experienced during a car accident, falling down, sleep- ing on an ill-fitting pillow and even the birthing process itself.
To understand the importance of the C1 and its affect on our daily life; imagine holding onto a big platter, as a waiter or waitress would. If we balance the plate around its center of gravity, we can hold onto it for a long time. But if we try to balance it off that center of gravity, it is a struggle to keep it from falling and the weight will also seem magnified. In order to keep the plate in that position, our finger muscles would have to tighten as they struggle to hold up the weight, as would the muscles of the wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, back and even the legs as they compensate for the shift in weight distribution.
If the body is forced to experience this misalignment daily, that causes muscles to become accustomed to being in this position— the new normal. Unless we experience the body’s alarm system (pain), we may not even notice that it is occurring. If there’s pain, the body is giving us a warning that something is wrong, and you have the opportunity to correct it before further damage occurs.
Many people silence or turn the volume down on the pain alarm with medications, and eventually, the alarm signal is managed or just shuts off. The problem is that while one can no longer hear the alarm, the reason has not been corrected, causing slow, internal and external deterioration, including degradation of posture, gait and nerve impulse conduction. All these problems can have unexpected, long- term negative health consequences, in addition to exacerbat- ing and creating other health issues.
To minimize stress, start by being aware of poor posi- tioning and take action to correct it. When reading, working on a computer or using a cellular or handheld device, con- sider improving the body’s alignment by elevating the screen; working at a table or placing a purse, bag or jacket on our lap and resting the screen there. Always maintain at least a fist-size space between the chin and the chest. Looking any further down will put a strain onto the neck and the muscles all the way down to the low back. Also consider having at least a biannual check-up of the C1 by a dedicated upper cervical chiropractic specialist.
Dr. Cecilia Yu is a NUCCA Chiropractic practitioner and owner of Synergy Balance NUCCA Chiropractic Healing Center. For appointments, call 555-555-1212. For more information, visit MySynergyBalance.com