Texting May Be Causing Your Neck Pain

Text NeckAs more and more people are becoming glued to their smartphones, medical professionals are warning people about a new condition called “text neck.”

If you’re at school or the breakroom at work it probably doesn’t take long to see more than a few individuals hunched over their cellphone. Responding to texts and sending that work email are important tasks, but you may be jeopardizing your neck health if you hunch your head down while typing away.

“It isn’t the best for our posture,” said Linda Scholl, a University of Utah physical therapist. “It’s not correct posture, but kind of leaning forward.”

Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, a spine surgeon in New York, coined the condition “text neck.” He says the condition is caused by tilting a your head down while staring at your smartphone. According to Dr. Hansraj, teens are especially at risk, as some teens have spent an additional 5,000 hours on their phone compared to older adults.

Scholl agrees, saying teens and colleges students are spending more time than ever buried in their smartphones.

“People are spending more time leaning forward, paying attention to what’s in front of them, instead of having their posture upright and looking at the world around them,” Scholl said.

Scholl noted that people have hunched their heads in the past – be it by reading books or working at their desks – but these activities rarely cause a person’s neck to be in a poor position for such a long duration.

Text Neck Pain

Scholl went on to discuss just how much pressure you can put on your neck by tilting it forward. According to her, the human head weights about 12 pounds, and the farther forward you lean, the more weight is placed on the cervical spine. Once your tilt reaches 60 degrees, “you have about 60 pounds worth of pressure going through your spine. So that soft tissue has to hold the weight of the head in this forward position.”

In addition to neck issues, poor head position can lead to other side effects like reduced lung capacity, neurological problems and heart disease.

Preventing Text Neck

Text neck is a serious problem, but it can be prevented pretty easily. Follow these tips to avoid neck problems while texting.

  • Mentally note where your neck location is every time you use your phone. When using your phone, try to keep it out in front of you. If it’s in your lap, you’re going to need to lean forward to use it.
  • Regularly stretch and exercise your neck. Rotate your shoulders and neck at regular intervals.
  • Don’t be glued to your cell phone. Sure, sometimes it’s very necessary to be on your phone, but the more you’re on it, the more likely you are to subconsciously slip into a poor posture.

If you suffer from neck pain, take a close look at your cell phone use. You may be doing harm without even realizing it!

Related source: Deseret News

What Types of Patients Do Pain Doctors Treat?

MN Pain Doctor patientsFinding the right care for each individual patient who is dealing with chronic pain can be difficult. If a patient has ongoing difficulties with pain symptoms, additional medical expertise is often helpful with symptom management. The comprehensive Pain Care program at CDI is designed to help manage these complex and difficult problems.

Pain Management at CDI

The Pain Care program at CDI will see any patient who has ongoing problems with pain. The program is run by a Board Certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialists with subspecialty training in Pain. We are available to help evaluate and diagnose medical problems that are causing ongoing pain symptoms in any region of the body. Common problems that we usually see include patients with:

  • neck pain
  • headaches
  • joint pain
  • neuropathy
  • low back pain
  • mid back pain
  • multilevel pain problems.

The goal is to develop an individualized comprehensive treatment plan to better control symptoms on a conservative basis. Early management of pain problems often leads to solutions that completely solve the issues.

Treating Pain Problems

A typical low back pain patient may have muscles strains, disc issues, nerve irritation, lumbar facet joint pain, or even pelvic problems. A comprehensive evaluation and examination often leads to an appropriate diagnosis and a number of treatment options. A Physiatrist can work with a patient to complete further testing, and if necessary, assist with physical therapy, medication, and interventions to overcome the medical problems causing low back pain. Muscle strains for instance may only need physical therapy and appropriate short-term medications. Lumbar facet joint problems cause axial low back pain and may benefit from a combination of injections, radio-frequency neurolysis/lesioning, and physical therapy. Depending on the diagnosis, a comprehensive treatment plan with the available options for management can be discussed and implemented with the patient.

Neck pain issues often cause headaches and can be treated with a number of conservative interventions. The Pain Care team can help diagnose and develop a comprehensive management strategy. One common problem causing headaches is irritation of the cervical facets, and this often occurs after trauma, especially motor vehicle accidents. This pain is often known as a whiplash injury. It often resolves with conservative physical therapy and short-term medication, but about 10% of cases require more intense intervention. These patients are often helped with injections and sometimes radio-frequency lesioning of nerves in the neck. Successful management often cures the problems for a prolonged time.

Pain is a complex problems, and every patient is unique with their own set of important issues. If all the answers were obvious, there would be no need for our services. Unfortunately, pain is the most common problem bringing a patient to the doctor’s office. When it does not resolve in short period of time, having the skills of a specialist is often extremely beneficial. There is not one solution, one medication, one shot, or one specific intervention that is right for every patient.  Pain Care is designed to integrate and coordinate our skills into the community to treat these challenging patients with their current care team.

Pain management is not a new field.  At CDI we have recognized the need to provide a more comprehensive service to help with the management of these complex and difficult patients. With a comprehensive approach to the evaluation and management of these patients by a Physiatrist, we hope to bring a successful approach to resolving these difficult problems within the community. At CDI we hope to partner with a community of physicians to better serve these patients and their providers.

Neck Pain – Nerve Irritation, Whiplash, & Muscle Spasms

neck pain x-rayThis is part two of our blog mini-series on Neck Pain. You can find the first installment here. Our first post focused on chronic neck pain causes and treatments at a general level. c

Nerve Irritation

Cervical discs in the neck that cause nerve irritation can have both axial pain or pain in the arms.  MRI or CT scans are necessary to see these structures and determine the severity of the changes.  If the changes have been slow degeneration, the body can often adapt to them even if there is severe narrowing where the nerves travel.  Treatment often includes cervical epidural steroid injections to calm spine irritation and inflammation.  Controlling nerve sensitivity can be helped by medications known as neuropathics that include some seizure drugs and antidepressants.  Physical therapy and behavioral health interventions are also beneficial.

Whiplash

Whiplash and cervical facets cause pain from abnormal movement or sensitivity of the joints between each of the cervical vertebra.  Patterns of pain from these joints are fairly specific, and are mostly along the spine from the base of the skull, out to the shoulders, and down through the shoulder blades.  Treatment ranges from heat and ice, massage, manipulation, acupuncture, anti-inflammatory medications, traction and physical therapy, to injections.  Most pain responds to simple things, about 5-10 percent need the more complex treatment such as steroid injections, nerve blocks, and radiofrequency lesioning to prevent pain feedback from the joints.

Muscle Spasms

Muscle spasms of the neck can be primary problems, or secondary to a deeper problem in the spine.  If the spasms are chronic, it is more likely they are due to a deeper structure like the facets or discs, and treating those problems will significantly improve the spasms.  At times, spasms continue despite treating all other problems and pain is chronic. For this type of problem, chronic use of muscle relaxers along with therapy is often necessary.  Botox, which is a medication that is injected into the muscle to partly paralyze it for several months, is also helpful.

Neck pain that is chronic and ongoing is a difficult problem to treat due to its many causes.  A Physical Medicine pain specialist can be especially helpful in the diagnosis and management of the problem.  They often can determine all the factors that are contributing to ongoing issues and develop a comprehensive strategy to manage the symptoms.  Treatment often is not simple, but working with an experienced specialist can help with a successful long-term solution to a frustrating problem.

Neck Pain Causes & Treatment Options

chronic neck painThe cervical spine and neck can often cause pain, especially as the body ages. There are seven cervical vertebras with multiple joints contributing to the core structure.  The spine and multiple nerves traverse the region.  Multiple muscles and ligaments contribute to motion and stability.

On top of the neck is the head with all its structures and below are the torso, shoulders and arms.  Pain perceived as from the neck may come from any of the structures in the region.  All pain fibers from the mid shoulder blade and chest level on up travel through the same area of the brain. As a result, the brain can have difficulties in determining the exact location that is generating the pain signals.

Acute Neck Pain

Neck pain may be described as headaches that originate in the neck or it may be specific pain in the neck.  Acute pain may be as simple as a muscle strain if there was no significant trauma.  More chronic pain often comes from a deeper structure in the neck, such as:

  • Cervical facet joints
  • Cervical discs
  • Cervical nerve irritation
  • Degenerative changes irritating the nerves

Shoulder problems can also be misinterpreted as neck pain.

Chronic Neck Pain Causes

The most common causes of chronic neck pain are cervical facets joints, cervical degenerative changes, discs irritating nerves in the neck, and secondary muscle spasms in the neck.  Trauma over time often contributes to the changes that have caused pain.  The result is felt as neck pain, muscle tightness, and decreased range of motion of the neck.  Determining the cause starts with a good history and physical exam.  If simple solutions such as exercise, massage, heat and ice, and over the counter medications have not worked, then a physical medicine pain physician would be extremely helpful in coordinating future care.

Chronic neck pain that is limiting function warrants help from an expert.  Muscle spasms and pain are the symptoms most commonly reported by patients.  The cause is often a combination of problems such as:

  • Degeneration of discs, bones, and joints
  • Nerve irritation
  • Muscles tightening to prevent further pain and movement of the head

After age 30, almost everyone will show a degree of degeneration of the cervical spine and these normal changes can also contribute to pain.

Treatment Options for Chronic Neck Pain

Treatment of neck pain starts with determining the causes, and often requires a complex plan that addresses each of the contributing factors that are maintaining the symptoms.  Chronic pain often involves multiple causes and a simple treatment is often not available.  Patient frustration is common since we all want a simple treatment.  If there are multiple structures involved and pain is chronic, expect that more than one thing will be necessary to manage the symptoms.

Spinal Stenosis: Causes & Pain Management Options

spinal stenosisSpinal stenosis is a narrowing in the spinal canal where the spinal cord and nerves of the spine travel and exit the bony spine structure.  It most commonly occurs in the neck and low back regions.  It can be caused by normal changes relating to aging, such as:

  • Bony overgrowth
  • Trauma
  • Congenital changes

The body is highly adaptive, and if changes that lead to stenosis are slow, often no symptoms are present until the body can no longer compensate.

Causes & Symptoms

The symptoms of stenosis are signs of nerve damage at the spinal level that include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bowel or bladder problems

Symptoms are dependent on the cause and location of the spinal narrowing.  Trauma, like car accidents, can cause sudden fracture of the spinal vertebrae. The bone pieces can damage the spinal cord causing immediate paralysis.  Congenital abnormalities may cause curvatures of the spine (scoliosis) and pinching of the nerves as they exit the spine.

Stenosis most commonly develops as one ages. The bone can become overgrown where the vertebral discs and joints are causing central and lateral spine narrowing.  In the neck, symptoms of pain, numbness, and weakness occur in the arms and head, but can also occur in the legs.  Low back stenosis causes symptoms in the low back and legs, and sometimes bowel and bladder control.  Symptoms in the low back may be very positional. Bending forward and sitting may significantly relieve the pain.  The most common symptoms that send a person to a doctor are pain or muscle weakness.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of spinal stenosis is made based on symptoms, history, and physical examination.  Pain is often in the distribution of a particular spinal nerve level and muscle weakness corresponds to that level.  An exam shows sensation changes, weakness of muscles, and reflex changes.  If stenosis is suspected, CT or MRI scans of the spinal region can confirm the diagnosis.  Electrodiagnostic studies may also be useful to determine the extent of nerve damage, and are performed by Physical Medicine doctors or Neurologists.

Pain Management Options

Treatment for spinal stenosis needs to be individualized for every patient. Conservative care centers on physical therapy to strengthen spinal muscles and maintain proper posture, to medications for pain and spinal injections.  Many people can control symptoms for years with a variety of conservative care techniques.  If the conservative path is not controlling symptoms, then surgical care may be necessary to relieve spinal narrowing.

Spinal stenosis is a complex condition.  A good Physical Medicine pain specialist can lead one through the maze of diagnosis and treatment.  Most people do respond to conservative care.  Narrowing of the spine does occur in many people and often can be treated with PT, medications and other types of care.  Find a physician who can lead you through conservative care before you consider surgery.