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Starting Off The New Year With A Straighter Spine

The Lunar New Year is around the corner. While we may have been busy buying new clothes, spring cleaning, and preparing for reunion meals, have we thought about how straight our neck will be?

As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I am actively assessing the postures of everyone around. Every time I take the train, I cannot help but observe the masses of people with their heads bent downward towards their phones. I almost feel the “pain” at the sight of necks flexed 90-degrees, imagining how much unnecessary stress their spine has to deal with.

 

“Text neck” on the train

A Singapore survey on those using electronic devices more than 3 hours daily found that 60% of them had associated neck and back pain (“Few know about ‘text neck’”, The Straits Times, 21 March 2017). What is the root cause of this problem that is getting increasingly widespread?

According to published research on Surgical Technology International, a 30-degree downward tilt of the neck can exert 18kg of spinal stress. For every inch (2.5 cm) your head goes forward, your spine has to bear an additional 10 pound (4.5 kg) bowling ball’s weight. From a musculoskeletal perspective, an Upper Cross Syndrome develops: your muscles on the back become tighter, while the muscles on the front get weaker. Stretching tight muscles do not necessarily treat the root issue, while overstretching may worsen the problem.

At a deeper level, this may also place stress on spinal vertebrae (resulting in a “vertebral subluxation” which are spinal misalignments that cause nervous system interference), as well as on spinal discs (causing disc inflammation or worse conditions like disc herniation). In fact, spinal discs are biomechanically more stressed in forward bending and rotation. Again, stretching in these motions may not be the answer.

The effects of “text neck” are not just musculoskeletal as the body is all connected. As such, it may be associated with a 30% loss of lung vital capacity, reduced blood flow to the brain, and poorer mood.

Technology is something that is here to stay, but I believe with the right steps we can mitigate its associated stresses. Firstly, be aware of your neck posture, avoiding any unnecessary stress by raising up your device so your neck does not have to tilt so far down. We also recommend our desk-bound patients to keep their screen monitor height in line with their eyes.

Secondly, consider a chiropractic check to correct any vertebral subluxations. Quite often, we see patients that report finally being able to hold their neck straighter upon getting adjusted, after years of being unable to do so no matter how hard they tried. Think of it as a structural blockage that sometimes cannot be cleared on its own. We also have patients that had previously resorted to frequent self-manipulation for temporary neck relief, only to have that harmful urge self-resolved with chiropractic. Your body works better with a well aligned spine!

 

Dr. Kelvin Ng adjusting Dr. Ashley Liew 

I hope to bump into you on your next train ride, hopefully with a straighter spine. We wish everyone a Happy Lunar New Year!

In health,
Dr. Ashley Liew

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