Your posture may be damaging your spine!

  • How many of you reading this are looking down at your phone or tablet

  • Is your neck tight or painful when doing so?

  • Has anyone told you why your neck is always tight and painful when looking down?

Three of the primary reasons why neck pain happens will be discussed throughout this article. It is important you have a firm understanding of why neck pain occurs and how to make an informed decision to fix it.

1. Overuse

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Over-using the muscles of the neck is extremely common and directly related to poor posture. In today’s technology-driven society you would be hard pressed not to see someone looking down at their phone. This is now known as “text neck” and is becoming a major problem that even affects the younger population. The muscles of the neck have to work harder for longer resulting in adhesion formation. The amount of excess stress that puts on the neck wrecks havoc on the muscles, joints,  and the discs of the neck. This leads to tightness, pain, and early-onset disc degeneration! As the picture shows if you are looking down all the time you could be adding 60 lbs of force through your neck. Go pick up a 60 lb weight and imagine that sitting on top of your head. Ouch! That is the amount of excess stress put through the neck with poor posture.

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Overuse-related neck pain can also happen from trauma due to injury. This occurs from whiplash injuries in car accidents or contact sports such as football and hockey. When this happens the muscles in the neck undergo extreme amounts of stress in a very short time. Think of a spring pulling apart rapidly then snapping back to the original position. When that happens in muscles, adhesion begins to form creating decreased flexibility and weakness ultimately leading to neck pain.

2. Cervical Disc Injury

Neck pain can also happen from an injured cervical disc. There are multiple types of disc injuries. Some happen over a long period of time and slowly wear out the disc material. This is a degenerative type of disc injury. Common symptoms are neck stiffness when looking up/down and left/right, constant tightness and achiness.

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Cervical disc herniations happen over a much shorter time and you can closely pinpoint the moment it happens. This happens when the disc material protrudes through the outer layers of the disc and pushes on nerve roots and/or the spinal cord. This type of disc injury can actually refer pain to the trap and shoulder. You may also feel like your head is tilted towards one side or turning one way hurts more than the opposite side. These are protective responses to take the pressure off the damaged part of your disc. If you have shoulder and trap tightness/pain but you aren’t using your shoulder, it is most likely you have a cervical disc injury that has gone undiagnosed.

3. Nerve Entrapment at Scalenes

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The muscles on the side of the neck (scalenes) can also contribute to neck pain. The nerve roots of the neck pierce these muscles and supply function and sensation to the shoulder, arm, and hand. When the scalenes develop adhesion the nerves that pass through become stuck to the muscle. This is known as nerve entrapment and can become a big problem. Common symptoms for this nerve entrapment are pain, tightness, tingling, numbness, and weakness anywhere along the side of the neck through the shoulder and continuing through the arm. You may feel like you always want to stretch the side of your neck. That is your body telling you that your nerves are stuck to your neck muscles. A common misdiagnosis for nerve entrapment is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and “tight” scalenes. This can lead to unnecessary treatments and ultimately surgery, both of which still won’t fix the problem. Another common misdiagnosis is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Before surgery is considered you need to have your nerve roots assessed and also any soft-tissue around the course of the nerves that can become entrapped.

Those are 3 of the most common reasons for why you develop neck pain. The good news here is the doctors at Functional Spine and Sport specialize in fixing adhesion and nerve entrapment in the neck. They are also experts at diagnosing and managing cervical disc injuries, which allows you to fully understand why you are having neck pain. You can rest easy knowing our doctors are here to help with your neck pain no matter the extent or severity.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for those of you who are currently experiencing NO neck pain or tightness and want to continue keeping your neck healthy. If your pain is rated 2/10 or higher please refrain from reading this article and schedule a consultation to get your problem fixed.

Maintaining neck health is extremely important and following proper postural guidelines is critical. In a society where everyone seems to be looking down at a phone, poor posture is rampant. Poor posture leads to muscle weakness and a whole host of other problems.

How can you prevent neck pain at home?

  1. Strengthen neck muscles

Quadruped Chin Retraction is the best exercise to help build and maintain strength in the neck. This exercise should be done once a day for 2 sets of 10 repetitions. Doing this helps maintain neck strength and keep the discs of your neck healthy.

1.     Start in tabletop position, pictured below.

2.     Drop face straight towards the floor.

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3.     Look between your knees, tucking your chin to collar bones.

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4.     Pull neck towards the ceiling by dragging chin along collarbone, pulling neck parallel to the floor. Done correctly, you should feel the muscles working through the neck to upper back.

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2. Proper workstation ergonomics

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Having correct workstation ergonomics is something extremely valuable to maintaining spine health. Setting yourself up at your desk in a neutral posture will allow the lowest amount of stress put through the joints of your neck and back. You want your monitor to be directly at eye level so your eyes are looking directly at the middle of the screen. If the screen is too low it adds at least 15 lbs of stress to your neck. Over a 40 hour work week, you can see how years of bad ergonomics can lead to chronic neck pain and tightness.

3. Sit, Slide, Lean

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This is as simple as it sounds but extremely important for overall spine health. Follow these rules for sitting in any chair. Start by making sure the seat height keeps your thighs parallel with the floor. Sit on the edge of the seat. Slide your butt back until it hits the back of the chair. Simply lean back into the chair making sure it supports a wakeful and upright posture. That’s it! As soon as you start finding yourself slouching or getting lazy, get up and move around for a couple minutes.

We hope you found this helpful and if followed this will help you improve your posture, spinal health, and prevent neck pain. If you find yourself already suffering from chronic or recurring neck pain, we can help!

We have discussed how neck pain happens, how you can prevent neck pain, but what do you if you experience neck pain? You’re in luck--and here’s why.

Adhesion in the soft tissues of the neck is arguably the primary cause of neck pain, but it’s completely reversible with expert treatment! Adhesion acts like glue in the tissues making the neck less flexible, weaker, and will speed up degeneration. With our treatments, we can restore healthy motion, improve postural strength, and save the discs in your neck.

Here are three common areas of treatment for acute or chronic neck pain:

1. The nuchal ligament runs along the center of your neck and the vast majority of neck muscles attach to the ligament. So this means when adhesion is present here it’s going to cause a lot of tightness and stiffness. Instrument Adhesion Release (IAR) will fix the adhesion and restore the health of the ligament.

a. We are the only clinic in Lake County certified to use IAR to fix adhesion in the nuchal ligament.

2. What is the most common muscle in the human body to develop adhesion? The levator scapula tops the list. This muscle runs from the side of the neck to the shoulder blade and is usually what hurts when people say that they have pain in their trapezius.

a. Our work postures and use of smartphones has caused a massive increase in the need to treat this muscle.

3. Have you ever heard of nerve entrapment? Nerve entrapment can occur in over 150 places in the human body! This is when adhesion sticks nerves to surrounding tissues.

a. Symptoms of nerve entrapment can include aching, burning, tingling, and numbness.

b. Nerve entrapment at the cervical nerve roots can cause any of those symptoms into the shoulders, arms, or hands.

c. Misdiagnosis of cervical nerve root entrapment is common. This is a big problem because it can lead to many expensive, painful tests and unnecessary surgeries!

The doctors at Functional Spine and Sport are the leading experts in the state of Illinois for soft tissue adhesion treatments. Again, adhesion in the tissues around the neck is arguably the primary cause of pain, limited flexibility, poor posture, and degeneration. You don’t have to suffer from chronic neck pain. Let us help you get your quality of life back!


Carl Nottoli