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Is Forward Head Posture the Culprit Behind Your Chronic Neck Pain?

Is Forward Head Posture the Culprit Behind Your Chronic Neck Pain?

Neck pain stems from various conditions and sources, including degenerative spinal disease, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, and herniated discs, to name just a few. Whiplash and sports injuries are other common culprits. 

But if you haven’t been in a recent accident and your spine is otherwise healthy, you may be a victim of tech neck, a forward head posture that triggers neck pain and stiffness.

Regardless of the underlying cause of your chronic neck pain, Dr. Patrick McNulty can help. As an award-winning, double board-certified orthopedic surgeon, he has the expertise and experience to diagnose and treat all types of spinal conditions, from mild aches and pains to severe degenerative diseases. 

Over the past decade or so, we’ve seen a rise in the number of people seeking help for chronic neck pain that’s not related to a disease or degenerative condition but poor posture. We call this condition tech neck because it typically results from bending the neck forward to view electronic devices. Here, Dr. McNulty explains what bending your neck forward for long periods does to your neck and how we can help you at McNulty Spine in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada.

How your smartphone is harming your neck

Physicians have always known that poor posture impacts your spinal health, but the surge of handheld technology has caused a similar surge of neck problems. It turns out that spending hours hunched over your devices strains your muscles and ligaments, leading to pain and stiffness.

A quick anatomy refresher course illustrates our point further. 

The cervical portion of your spine that makes up your neck has seven vertebrae cushioned by discs to create the flexibility that enables you to turn, bend, and twist your neck. A side view of your spine shows that you have a slight curve in the cervical region called the lordotic curve, which arches inward slightly and provides a counterbalance to the kyphotic or outward curve of your thoracic spine. 

The technical term for tech neck is cervical kyphosis, referring to the loss of your natural lordotic curve. Since your head weighs 10-12 pounds, and each 15-degree forward lean effectively doubles the weight of your head, a 45-degree angle forces your neck to support the equivalent of a 50-pound bowling ball. 

Spotting the trends in increased neck pain, even among young people, researchers took a closer look at the cause-and-effect relationship between technology and neck pain. A 2019 study found that the amount of time people look down at their phones or other electronic devices correlated directly with the severity and duration of their neck pain. 

Over time, this posture may lengthen your neck muscles and shorten your chest muscles, resulting in further pressure on your spine.

Signs you may have tech neck

In addition to chronic pain and stiffness in your neck, you may notice:

Over time, untreated cervical kyphosis can lead to long-term problems, such as chronic tension headaches, herniated discs, and an increased risk for injuries. 

How to treat chronic neck pain

You can prevent tech neck by limiting the amount of time you use your electronic devices in a low position, practicing proper posture, keeping your device at eye level, and getting regular exercise that improves your cardiovascular capacity and strengthens your upper body.

Dr. McNulty evaluates your cervical spine to determine the extent of kyphosis, if any, and develops a treatment plan to resolve the root cause of your neck pain. He may prescribe a muscle relaxant and advise you about healthy posture and preventive measures. 

Medications and injections can reduce pain and inflammation, and physical therapy can restore mobility and increase strength.

However, if you have kyphosis, surgical intervention may be the best solution. If so, rest assured that no one is more qualified or experienced than Dr. McNulty. If you have chronic neck pain, contact us at McNulty Spine online or by phone and find out if tech neck is the culprit. 

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