Screen Time and Neck Pain…The Connection

Discover why your cell phone may be ringing your neck! If you didn’t catch last week’s episode Hidden Causes of Neck Pain, watch here

Recap Last Week Hidden Causes of Neck Pain00:02-1:17
Neck Muscles Aren’t Doing Their Job1:18-03:24
Opto-Kinetic Reflex03:25-06:06
Posture Changes Structure06:07-08:14
Unhealthy Adaptation08:15-12:12
How to Promote Healthy Adaptation12:13-14:10
Take Action14:11-17:24

Transcript:

Dr. Clayton Roach:

Let’s start!

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Last week we spoke about the 42-degree curve. Futhermore, we mentioned how the structure of your spine dictates its function and pain-free movement. What we do in chiropractic care is we maintain that 42-degree curve. Also, we went through all the relevant anatomy in the spine and spoke about what a normal-shaped curve looks like. We also compared it to the alordotic curve there to the right.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

At the end of this video, we’re going to show you something that you just do not see anywhere else. It will blow your mind.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

We’re going to talk a little bit about a study that was published this year. It talks about how forward head posture decreases cervical proprioception. Proprioception is the sensory feedback that the muscles give to the head and neck. When we’re looking at our phones, our muscles aren’t telling our head and neck where our head is in space. So the more that we look down, we don’t even realize that we’re creeping more and more and more ahead. Before we know it, we look up and we’re like, oh my neck really hurts. How long have I been down there? The reason is that the minute that you flex forward, those muscles stop and shut off. They’re not telling you where you are in space, which is pretty cool.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

What you’re saying, Ben is that the brain no longer perceives that the muscles are in an abnormal position. It’s almost like when you walk into the room and there’s this strange smell. When you’ve been in the room for 10 minutes, you don’t smell it anymore. That’s the loss of proprioception, meaning that the brain here no longer knows that the spine looks like this.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Exactly! People oftentimes say my muscles are weak but no, your muscles aren’t weak, your muscles are just turned off. They’re literally turned off. When they’re in that position and it leads to that flex posture. After 40 minutes of smartphone use, people had no clue where their head was in space. They had a difficult time centring themselves compared to people who didn’t look at their smartphones. 

Dr. Clayton Roach:

This where I need to talk about the optokinetic reflex, Ben. One of the things that Facebook does very well, it’s almost like a VLT machine, where you crank it and what gets you to crank it again is what you want to show up on the screen. But every time you crank it there’s a different set of numbers or bells or cherries that show up on the screen.

On the Facebook feed, when you’re scrolling your eyes go down and then they come back up to pick up the next thing that it’s viewing so it goes up and down, up and down, that is called an optokinetic reflex. Optokinetic reflex gives the brain the perception that you’re falling. Your shoulders start to roll in, your head goes down and you start to look like this person. There’s a neurological impact of you being on your phone for an unreasonable amount of time.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Absolutely, the use of handheld devices is shown to trigger a higher activity level in the muscles that attach to your neck as well as the muscles that are supposed to hold you more erect. Even though you’re leaning forward, and those muscles don’t seem like they’re doing their job to pull you back into place, they’re tightening up the more that you look down. That’s why when you come back up those muscles are fired up and in pain because they’re being triggered by the movements that you’re performing on to them.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

If you think that was cool information, if you have learned something so far please give a thumbs up. We want to get some feedback here that we’re sharing information that matters to you because this is why we do these every Wednesday night and we’ve committed to this.

Ben, I don’t know what to say here, who would have thought that this would be happening? This is the moment that you have all been waiting for. We are showing you stuff here that we don’t see all the time on x-rays, but we are starting to see this a lot more now. I want to preface this by saying that we are starting to see lack of curves in the neck. This guy doesn’t have a curve it is supposed to go like this. I am starting to see this in eight- to nine-year-olds. I’m going to repeat this, no lordotic curve and they are eight years old. I don’t know how to explain this but that is mind-boggling. This is something that you would see, before all this mobile stuff, in 30 to 40 years old.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

This is a really cool study, and it was performed in 2018, comparing the sizes of these EOPS, these occipital protuberances, just on the back of the head to people with and without neck pain. The individual on the top is 28 years old and in a similar study in 1996, they were not seeing EOPS this size. It is one of the big correlations between the technology revolution, the introduction of smartphones, working at the computer and neck pain. It places a lot of pressure on that bony prominence.

Last week, I spoke about Davis’ Law and Wolf’s Law and how the bones and the ligaments and structures respond to the forces that are placed upon them. If you’re constantly tugging on a structure over the course of years and months and being on your cell phone for almost six hours per day. it’s going to have an impact on the structures in your body and you’re going to start to see a change.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

I want you to really appreciate this, I’m going to go back to the normal x-ray. What I underlined here was the EOP, it’s called the external protuberance. Occipital, which is the bone here, a rounded bump that is normal. And this is what you see, this is like a hook. The reason that’s happening is that your head is down and these muscles right here are constantly pulling and pulling and pulling and suddenly, you’ve got a hook back there. I don’t know if you saw this, Ben but that’s soft tissue. That’s the skin it’s pushing, creating a bump on the neck. Constant pulling on the bone by these muscles is creating a bump there.

Dr Ben Boudreau: I’d just like to point out for the anatomy fans out here, on the lower level in the x-ray we see straightening of the spine. This is a 58-year-old individual and we see the enlarged EOP, we also see a small nuchal bone just down in the soft tissues. This is what we call ossification and musculature. When the muscles aren’t being moved properly and not being moved enough, they begin to ossify, and you see some of that on x-ray.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

I’m going to stop there so we can review the process. We have a young child, grows up in this generation where there’s a lot of screen time and adults are not immune to it. A lot of us are working from home now on a dining room table with terrible ergonomics and we’re spending a lot of screen time there. One study said that our screen time is up an hour and 45 minutes every day. That’s a lot of time we’re spending on screen time and our neck goes from a 42-degree curve to no curve at all.

Spacing for the discs are starting to compress slowly but surely and you’ve got this kid that’s grade 10, grade 11 that’s starting to complain about neck pain, starting to get headaches that turn into migraines, maybe not doing well in school anymore. We say, let’s give him a little bit of Tylenol and that begins the lifestyle cycle that that child starts to propagate throughout his whole entire life.

Dr. Roach Continued

What we’re here to tell you is that this doesn’t have to be. We want to make sure that this child gets checked, we don’t know if a child needs chiropractic care, but we want to treat it like a dentist, where you go to a dentist saying I’m going to go for a dental checkup, you’re going for a chiropractic checkup. To say that my child has no reason to go to a chiropractor because he doesn’t have any pain means anything.

What does the structure look like? That person where we saw the big bone on the back top of his neck and his head, he may not have any pain. The crazy thing is the body adapts but that doesn’t mean it is good. Now touch base, Ben on what people, kids, or adults, can do to minimize the impact on their neck from using their mobile devices.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Absolutely, one of the big things is that you’re viewing is at eye level. I don’t care what you must do, you don’t have to have a standing desk, lower your seat slightly or stack a few books. Put yourself in a position so that your head is looking straight. If you have a laptop get a wireless keyboard. Another thing you can do is hold your phone close to eye level holding it out in front of you like this. You might be attracting a little bit of attention, but I see a lot of people who sit at the clinic and bring their phones up to eye level and do their typing from there.

It’s better than being down and looking at your phone and being slouched over because the next thing you know you get up from that position, oh my neck, I can’t believe how long I’ve been down there. These muscles are shut off, they’re not telling you. Tell yourself, give yourself that feedback and hold your phone there and when you’re tired of your arm being up maybe it’s time to take a break from your phone anyway. Put your phone down.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

Do a few stretches. It’s almost like teeth and sugar, you don’t say I brushed my teeth my whole life I’m done now. Your teeth are always going to be exposed to stress, our spine is the same. Maybe it’s not exposed to chemical stress like sugar and our teeth but there’s physical stress and positional stress. That doesn’t go away, it needs to be managed either with stuff you do on your own like what Ben just talked about and regular care to manage the state of your spine and the stress that it’s under. That would be our advice.

This is pretty crazy stuff, you’re not going to see an x-ray like that every time, so I was glad that you found this, Ben. Make sure you share this episode, give hearts. love and thumbs up. We love doing this. We commit to this every Wednesday; Ben shows up every single time with a smile on and we’re reaching people outside our four doors which have been our goal all along.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Dr. Roach is sharing his expertise with us every Wednesday night. We understand how busy he is and I’m making an effort as well to offer something out there that’s new so by all means please comment in the post below things that you want to hear about, things you are excited about and maybe questions that you have and haven’t gotten a chance to ask. Like and share the post, share it with some of your friends. I know that there were a few patients that have shared, and their friends have come in. They’ve called, they’re interested in seeking chiropractic care, they want to know what it’s all about. That’s what we’re here to do, we’re here to share and create a community.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

It would be the greatest gift, you share this episode, somebody comes in changes their life and then one day they go back to you and say thank you so much for sharing that Facebook post, I went to see a chiropractor. We don’t really care if it’s us or not, as long as they go see a chiropractor and they get helped. That’s what matters because many of these people are going around in a circle, they’re not getting the answers they need for their problems.

Next week we’re going to stick with the neck but we’re going to change a little bit.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

We’ll be talking more about conditions next week, which you are totally going to be interested in. Also, this is hump day episode number nine. We’ve been doing hump day for more than two months now. Next week is number 10 that’s a milestone, we’re in the double digits now.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

Comment on what would be the number one condition that you want us to talk about that’s got to do with the neck. Ben’s going to drop our Calendly link which allows you to book online. And that’s it.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Make sure you like and share this so that your friends can see it and if they’re interested in signing up for an initial appointment to have their spine checked by Dr. Roach and me, we would love to see them in the clinic. We can’t wait to see you again next week. We love and appreciate you, take care and have a great rest of your week.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

Thank you so much, looking forward to seeing you next Wednesday at nine o’clock for Hump Day Conversation Number 10