The Desk Job: Looking Down Can Be A Pain In The Neck

November 9th, 2018 Becki Andrus

Avoid Desk Injuries

It is inevitable that during our normal activities there are times in which we need to look down. It’s normal, and it’s often necessary. We do it constantly and don’t think twice about the motion, or how often our neck is performing the motion that we have asked it to do.

Many people spend a large percentage of their time each day looking down at their cellular phones. It makes sense, considering how much information we have obtained and transmitted through our phones. It is an excellent way to stay in constant communication with family and friends, to send messages to the people we know, or to be informed with the latest information in multiple aspects of our lives.

Many of us also spend a considerable amount of time looking down at computer screens. This is certainly the case for most people in the workplace, while we also can accumulate minutes and hours staring down at our laptops or desktops while we are at home.

In each of these scenarios, it is very easy for time to pass quickly while we are looking down. We become extremely focused on what we are doing, regardless of whether it is because we are reading or typing into our phones or our computers. Time can go quickly while we are so engrossed in what we are doing. But this also means that we are not actively thinking about the fact that our necks have remained in the position of looking downward throughout the duration of time that has been spent staring at our cells and computer screens.

The result can often be an excessive strain on our neck, which eventually can result in ramifications that we would prefer not to have. Because this prolonged pressure can create problems with our posture, which in turn causes issues with our spine, shoulder, and cervical nerves. It can also literally become a pain in the neck.

This neck pain usually is coming from the soft tissue – which are the bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles that combine to form the anatomy of your neck – this is also known as your cervical spine. The activities that involve looking down for long periods of time can place enough stress on this area to cause you discomfort.

If this has happened to you, you are not alone. According to one study, 79% of the population between ages 18 and 44 have their cell phones with them virtually all of the time with only two hours of their waking days spent without their cell phones in their hands. Another study found that children and adolescents spend an average of 5-7 hours each day with their heads flexed while reading and texting on their cell phone and handheld devices. That accumulates to somewhere between 1825 and 2555 hours over the course of a year.

In fact, enough of us have spent an extensive amount of time looking down while engaged with technology, that there are terms for the pain that it can cause. Pain that develops from starring at your cell phone is also referred to as text neck. Some sources will also refer to this as tech neck, while that term is also used to define neck pain from prolonged use of the computer.

Fortunately, there are specific things you can do to protect yourself from having neck pain from looking down, regardless of whether it has resulted from text neck or tech neck. One simple step that you can take when you are using your cell phone is to simply hold it at eye level as often as possible. The reason is obvious since this will reduce the amount of time that you spend looking down. You can also place time limits on how long you will use your phone for texting or reading. You can also make a conscious effort to give yourself breaks, which will also help you avoid excessive strain.

You can try using a headset or earpiece because either of these hands-free devices will keep you from looking down at your phone while you talk. There are also exercises that you can do which will help stretch and strengthen your neck. If no steps are taken to reduce the strain that is placed upon the neck, this added stress on the joints, ligaments, and discs in your neck can lead to premature degenerative changes in your neck.

If your neck pain stems from staring for great lengths of time at your computer screen, you can also raise your computer. If you keep your eyes at a point that is about two inches below the top of your screen image, that should decrease the pressure on the soft tissue where pain often begins. When you are sitting at your computer, your gaze ideally should be in-line with the top third of your screen. If you are looking down, then you should raise your monitor. An alternative would be to connect your laptop to another monitor or screen that is closer to your eye level.

You should also make sure that you are staying hydrated. Drinking plenty of water will hydrate your discs, which are spongy structures within the vertebrae of your neck. The discs already contain water, and drinking more will help them stay strong.

You can also apply heat to your neck, which will help ease the tension on your strained muscles. The use of ice can also help relieve pain. But if the many advantages of using technology to stay in contact with your family or friends, or of simply doing your job, has developed to the point that you are dealing with pain, then there are times in which you should visit a doctor.

You should also consult a physician if your neck pain becomes worse, even though you are making a concerted effort to alleviate the pain. You should also seek attention if the pain moves down your arms or legs, or if you also have numbness, tingling, or a headache of any kind.

If any of these issues apply to you, we encourage you to visit us at Orthopedic Associates. With eight board-certified physicians and two board-eligible physicians in orthopedic specialties, Orthopedic Associates offers a full spectrum of musculoskeletal care, along with in-house physical therapy, and state-of-the-art-technology including our digital imaging and open MRI, and an on-site surgical center for more patient convenience.

We can provide this along with on-call availability, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our specialists at Orthopedic Associates treat a wide range of neck conditions, including:

  • Anatomy of the Spine
  • Cervical Radiculopathy
  • Coccydynia
  • Compression Fracture of the Spine
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Facet Joint Syndrome
  • Herniated Disc(s) (Cervical)
  • Kyphosis
  • Lumbar Radiculopathy (Sciatica)
  • Metastatic Cancer of the Spine
  • Muscle Strain of the Upper Back (Trapezius Strain)
  • Myelopathy
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Post-Laminectomy Syndrome
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal Epidural Abscess
  • Spinal Infection
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spondylosis
  • Where Lower Back Pain Begins
  • Where Neck Pain Begins
  • Whiplash

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