Struggling to Keep Your Head Up?
The neck plays a crucial role in supporting and maintaining the proper alignment of our head. While it may be easy to take its functionality for granted, a healthy neck is vital for overall well-being and plays a significant role in our daily lives. One of its function is to balance your head over the torso. If you are struggling to keep your head up then read on.
Think about it – every time you lift your head to look ahead, turn to check your surroundings, or even nod in agreement, your neck is hard at work, providing stability and mobility. Without the neck’s support, simple tasks such as standing upright and maintaining proper posture would be nearly impossible.
Neck Range of Motion
The neck consists of a series of facet joints that connect each segment, allowing for a wide range of movements. You have used necks rotation when merging into traffic, with quick head turns for maintaining awareness of road.
Beyond rotation, the neck is highly mobile in other dimensions of movement. Our bodies are built with a capacity to tilt our head from side to side, as well as flex it forward and extend it backward. These movements facilitate various activities in our daily lives.
Tech Neck and The Struggle
The extensive use of mobile phones, tablets, and electronic devices can often result in a modern-day neck instability known as “tech neck.” There are many symptoms and implications of this condition and serves as a reminder that technology can indeed be a literal pain in the neck.
With this condition becoming more common, it is important to recognize the symptoms associated with this condition. Here are some common symptoms of tech neck I commonly see in my clients:
People experiencing tech neck often report aching sensations in the lower neck, shoulders, and upper back. This discomfort can be persistent and may increase in severity as the condition progresses.
Pain on Lifting the Head:
In some cases, tech neck can cause intense, pain in the deep cervical flexors when people try to lift their head up while lying on the floor. This sharp pain can be debilitating and may limit movement in the affected area.
One of the common symptoms of tech neck is the onset of headaches. These headaches can vary in intensity and may be correlated with tension and strain in the neck and upper back.
The neck, upper back, and shoulders may feel stiff and limited in their range of motion with tech neck. This reduced mobility can further contribute to discomfort and frustration.
Misalignment of the cervical spine, commonly associated with tech neck, can lead to jaw pain. This can manifest as temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Tech neck can cause irritation and inflammation of the spinal nerves, leading to tingling and numbness in the arms and fingers.
The Weight of Your Head
In today’s technological age, most people are carrying extra weight on their shoulders. This load is due to the heavy head we carry over our spine. The human head weighs close to 11 lbs, close to the size of a bowling ball, which is approximately 8% of the body mass.
Human brains are larger than other primate brains. On the one hand, that gives us extraordinary brainpower. On the other hand, it causes headaches, jaw pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain in a slouched posture.
Seven vertebrae and twenty muscles in our neck support our head. In a neutral position, our head exerts force straight down the spine, and the 11 lbs. load is balanced evenly over the spine -4. The problem occurs when we tilt our heads forward. The downward force on the spine increases to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees, and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.
Looking at it another way, every inch our head jots forward it adds 10 pounds of weight to our spine.
When we constantly lean our head forward, it puts a lot of strain on the ligaments in our neck that support the bones and our head, which is heavier than we may realize. This position not only leads to instability in our spine over time, but it also causes an imbalance in the muscles of our neck, back, and shoulders. With time, the deep neck muscles that help us maintain good posture and stability weaken, making it harder for us to support the weight of our head.
Find Immediate Relief
A lot of times my clients can’t support their head in a supine or anti-gravity position while doing exercise or foam rolling. The ability to move within a proper range is dependent on limitations in the range of motion because to the soft tissue weakness.
If you experience this limitation place a rolled towel or a round pillow under your neck to support the muscles of cervical spine. If that doesn’t help either, then try to perform exercises in a seated position and facedown like prone neck extensions.
Strengthen Your Cervical Spine While Sleeping
We spend a significant amount of our life sleeping, and one simple way to improve the alignment of our cervical spine is by using an appropriate pillow. A good pillow should offer support to both our neck and shoulders. I suggest using a crescent-shaped pillow like the cozy sleeper adjustable pillow. This provides comfort and helps relieve pain.
Exercises To Keep Your Head Up
While it may not be possible to entirely avoid looking down at your phone, there are exercises that can alleviate some of the strain on your neck and back.
Neck Mobility Exercise
Sit upright on a chair or stand comfortably with your shoulders relaxed.
Move your head through a comfortable, pain free range.
Look up towards the ceiling bending your neck backwards
Rotate your head to the right and left
Tilt your head to the right and left
Stand against a wall with feet hip distance apart, or if you have a chair with a backrest, you can stay seated.
Tuck your chin slightly down with two fingers and push your head back until it meets the wall or backrest.
Hold for 5 seconds before resting and repeat five times.
Slowly build up to ten repetitions.
Seated or standing at the desk, look up and over your shoulder.
Hold for ten seconds.
Repeat on the other side.
Perform three repetitions on each side.
Place one hand on the side of your head and gently tilt your head toward the shoulder on the same side.
Line your ears up with your shoulders like a chin tuck.
Press your head down till you can feel a good stretch going down the back of your neck.
Place your other hand behind your back.
Lie face down on a yoga mat with your elbow stacked under your shoulders and forearms resting on the mat.
Lift your head off the mat and push the head as far back as your body allows.
Feel the weight of your head strengthen your neck muscles.
Hold twenty seconds and repeat 3-4 times.
Like any other part of our body, the neck requires care and attention. Poor posture, lack of exercise, and stress can all negatively impact the health of our neck, leading to discomfort, pain, and even more severe conditions.
So, the next time you find yourself bending your neck forward to look down at your smartphone, or hunching over your desk for extended periods, remember the importance of maintaining a healthy neck. Engaging in exercises that promote neck strength, practicing good posture, and being mindful of ergonomics can go a long way in supporting this vital part of your body. By taking these steps can continue to appreciate the remarkable role they play in supporting our head and keeping us upright and balanced in our day-to-day activities.