Medically Reviewed by Duron Lee, DO
The Epidemic of Neck Pain
The demands technology puts on our bodies has turned into an epidemic termed Tech Neck. Tech Neck is the result of the ergonomics of holding a phone or working on a computer for hours a day. Even though tech neck has been put on the map as a common problem due to our technology-use posture, the postural issues leading to neck pain has been around for a long time.
Upper Crossed Syndrome
The reason a lot of people insidiously acquire neck pain is because of muscle imbalances. The muscle imbalances that lead to neck pain are summarized by upper crossed syndrome.
This pattern is characterized by tight muscles and weak muscles that lead to the forward translation of the head, elevation of the shoulders, and winging of the shoulder blades. The tight muscles are in the back of the neck and the pectoral muscles, and the weak muscles are the scapular stabilizers and “core” muscles of the neck.
The Problem with Muscles Imbalances
The problem with the tight/weak muscles illustrated by Upper Crossed Syndrome is that they not only are the cause of postural abnormalities, but the patterns can become ingrained in our system. When our pecs, for example, get tight and short it can be challenging to lengthen them to a point they don’t wreak havoc on our structure.
When the muscles of upper crossed syndrome get tight, like the pecs or the upper trapezius, the postural muscles of the lower trapezius and deep neck core muscles often become weak. In this pattern the neck will translate forward in the “tech neck” position and put undo strain on the neck muscles.
The strain on the neck from the postural aberrations of a forward head translation can be quantified in estimated pounds of pressure on the neck. For example, the neck translating forward by 30 degrees can be equivalent to lifting 40 pounds.
The Stretch: Doorway Pec Stretch
To combat the effects the ergonomics of technology have on our posture, a simple stretch a day can go a long way. There are several stretches and exercises that can have a positive effect on tech neck, but our focus is the pec muscle lengthening.
To Perform The Stretch:
- Stand up in front of an open doorway.
- Place your forearm along the doorframe.
- Lean your body forward until you feel a stretch across your chest and the front part of your arm.
- To change the pec fibers that are targeted, change your arm position. Place the arm lower than horizontal to emphasize the upper chest, place the arm perpendicular to stretch the middle portion, and place the arm higher than parallel to stretch the lower portion.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds in each position and work up to 3 minutes of stretching over time to lengthen the muscles.
Note: Do not begin any new exercise or stretching regimen without consulting your physician. This suggestion is not to replace personalized medical advice.
A lot of us develop muscle imbalances from the activities we do repetitively, like using a computer or cell phone. These imbalances develop slowly and insidiously over time, but if you begin implementing a daily routine to combat tight muscles, it can keep the resultant neck pain at bay. If, though, a simple stretching routine does not alleviate your pain, you may benefit from an evaluation from a physician specializing in orthopedic health. If you or someone you know is suffering from neck pain, contact us at Regenexx at New Regeneration Orthopedics of Florida in Tampa, Orlando, St. Petersburg, or Sarasota.