By Ashley Theobold, DPT

For most of us, electronics are a part of our everyday life.  From computers, to cell phones, to tablets, we are inundated with technology and gadgets.  While these can help us with everything from working to leisure, the habits that form from their use can wreak havoc on our bodies.   We have a tendency to form habits of poor posture that lead to neckaches and backaches, whether it’s slumping in our chairs while studying or hunched over our phones checking our emails.  This graphic demonstrates what can occur from something as simple as sitting at a desk or watching television.

From the Washington Post: Sitting Graphic

Luckily, there are ways to combat the issues that arise due to the inevitable use of technology.  As shown in the image above, vertebral disk damage can occur.  With a forward head and rounded back, the discs that are dispersed throughout our spine can get pushed backwards. The discs can protrude to the point of pressing on the nerves and sending painful sensations down the back and legs. Likewise, along with aging and degeneration of our bones over time, narrowing of the bony canals in which the spinal nerves travel through can occur. This is known as foraminal stenosis.  However, there are specific exercises that can aid in reducing the strain we place on our necks and backs throughout the day, as well as exercises for degeneration of the spine.  Exercises that aid in pushing the disc forward can prevent neck or back pain episodes despite our imperfect body mechanics. In the case of stenosis, exercises that aid in opening up the bony canal and alleviating pressure off of the nerves can also be helpful. Along with these exercises, I’ve included one strengthening exercise in order to help stabilize the bones and discs of the spine and one exercise that aids in increasing motion.  The phrase “motion is lotion” holds true.  A spine that is reinforced by muscular strength and is able to move without limitations in range will be less likely to be injured due to everyday repetitive tasks.

We have a tendency to form habits of poor posture that lead to neckaches and backaches…

A quick rule of thumb is to perform the motion which provides your neck or back with the most symptomatic relief.  For example, attempt to move your head backwards and up 5-10 times; if this provides relief perform the neck extension exercises listed below.  Next, attempt to touch your chin to your chest; if this provides the most relief perform the neck flexion exercises labeled below.

For the low back place your hands on your hips and bend backwards 5-10 times. If this position provides relief, then perform the back extension exercises listed below.  Next, from a standing position, try to bend forward and touch your toes 5-10 times. If this position provides the most relief then perform the back flexion exercises listed below

Listed below are three exercises recommended to perform daily.  For your first exercise, perform the ROM exercise for the area of concern.  Next, perform the flexion or extension exercise as determined above. Lastly, perform the strengthening exercise that pertains to your issue. If the pain tends to reduce from the limbs back into the spine, this is known as centralization, and is indicative of your body responding well to the exercises.  Even, if the pain increases this is a good sign and exercises should be continued until the pain is resolved. If the pain radiates down the arms or legs, known as peripheralization, stop the exercise and try a direction that provides pain relief/centralization.  It is recommended to seek a healthcare professional if your neck or back issues continue to persist, or are not relieved by positional changes or rest, since the pain in your neck or back could be due to something other than a disc or bone issue.

Your Exercises

1) Range of Motion: Perform 10-20 times. 1 time per day.

Neck or

Back

2)  Repeated Movements:

For the neck, perform 3-6 reps; 6-8 times throughout the day.

For the back, perform 10 times.  6-8 times throughout the day.

Extension:

Neck or

Back

Flexion:     Neck (can place hands behind head and give a small force directed to the ground)  0r

Back

3)  Strengthening: perform 8-12 reps for 3 sets.

  1. Neck:  4-way Cervical Isometrics  (place hand on front, back, and each side of head for a 3-5 second hold)
  2. Low back: Bridging  (Hold 3-5 seconds)

For more information check out: 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life: How to Rapidly Relieve Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain

Edited by Jacques Courseault, MD