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What a pain in the neck!

What a pain in the neck!

Your head is heavy, about 4.5 to 5kg and your neck is designed to balance that weight effortlessly over your shoulders. It is a perfect design actually, so why do so many people suffer from shoulder pain, neck pain and tension headaches? At least half of the people that walk into my yoga class claim that they are experiencing pain in this area on a regular, sometimes daily basis.

Is it our lifestyle and commitment to our cell phones to blame? Why are more and more people suffering from Anterior Head Syndrome or “Text Neck?”

Our cervical spine’s purpose is to hold the weight of the head against gravity in the context of good posture. When you look at yourself in the mirror from the side angle; your ears should rest over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips. The pelvis is ideally balanced over the feet without tucking under or tilting back. All the natural curves of the spine are present and therefore they can do their job of holding the body steady and stable, including the head.

When we have poor posture, we allow the head to hang forward, this puts pressure on the neck and the shoulders. Looking down at your cell phone at a 45-60 degrees angle puts an additional strain on the neck of up to 22-28 kg. The weight of the head gets amplified and increasingly there are more and more activities in our lives that require this stance beyond texting. Driving, laptops, cooking, reading, housework and lack of core strength are also contributing factors to text neck.

The muscles on the front of the body become tight and pull the shoulders forward. The muscles of the upper back become overstretched and weak, lacking ability to pull the shoulders back. As a result, the head falls forward. The body spends more and more time in this position and this poor posture becomes a habitual norm.

People can experience a range of symptoms including:

  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Spinal degeneration
  • Repetitive strain injury
  • Disc compression
  • Nerve damage, experienced as pain radiating down the arms
  • Deceased lung capacity

What can you do to help to alleviate neck pain, fix ‘Text Neck’ and have better posture?

1. Yoga is incredible for releasing tension in the whole body. Shoulder and chest openers can help to open the front of the body. Downward Dog can be especially useful for allowing the head to hang heavy from the neck to create length.

2. Doorway Chest Openers. Place both of your hands on either side of a doorway creating the shape of ‘goal posts’ lean forward until you feel a stretch across the chest. You can adjust the arm height to change where you feel the stretch. Another variation is do this with the hands beside the hips and lean forward. Hold each for a count of 10 and repeat 3 times each.

3. Chin Tuck. Just like it sounds, guide your chin back to remind your head that it needs to rest further back in space.

4. Wall Angles. Like snow angles but standing against the wall. Place your hips, back and shoulders so they are touching the wall and then take your arms up as if you were about to create a snow angle and encourage the elbows and hands to touch the wall. Slide the hands up the wall while maintain contact. Focusing on squeezing the shoulder blades together as you lift the hands. Go slow for a count of 10 and repeat 3 times.

5. Adjust your desk or workspace so that it is more ergonomic. Ideally elevate your
computer or laptop screen to eye height and make sure you have a good chair.

6. Take frequent breaks from your computer as well as your phone.

7. Adjust your pillow so that you are not creating any additional discomfort while sleeping.

8. Strengthen your core. Core stability is an important part of good posture. Reform Method classes are idea for strengthening your shoulders, upper back and core, make it a part of your regular routine.