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Smart phone a pain in the neck? Try these positions to ease neck pain

  • Proper cell phone posture. 

  • Improper cell phone posture. STAFF PHOTOS/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates postures and stretches to ease neck pain. #3 Clasp hands behind head. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Proper TV watching pose. 

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates postures and stretches to ease neck pain. #5 (Alternate method) Press and hold lying down. (Close-up) —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates postures and stretches to ease neck pain. #4 (Part two): Clasp hands behind head. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates postures and stretches to ease neck pain. #5 (Alternate method) Press and hold lying down. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 9/17/2019 2:04:24 PM

Early on an August Sunday morning, we pulled out of our driveway in a car laden with bikes, camping gear and beach chairs, determined to beat Cape traffic. We hadn’t even made it to the end of our street when I realized I’d left my phone on the kitchen counter. I considered leaving it there; it’d be a nice break to be phone-free for a week. But I have elderly parents, so we turned back. Starting out again five minutes later, I committed to check messages each morning and evening, but nothing more. The rest of the week, my phone stayed packed away, despite the temptation of shark watch apps.

For someone with a lifelong history of neck pain, camping can be precarious. Thankfully, this year’s trip was pain free. No neck or shoulder spasms from sleeping on the ground, which I chalked up to the stretches I use and the air mattress we invested in last year.

A day or two after returning home, I grabbed my chirping phone and looked down to read an incoming text. Zing, I felt the all too familiar hot spot of pain in my neck. Ugh. The impact of my phone on my neck couldn’t have been clearer. The week off my phone, I’d had no neck pain, even sleeping on the ground.

Text neck. It’s a thing. Industry research in 2018, the 10-year anniversary of smart phones, shows that the average adult spends more than four hours every day on our phone with head down and neck bent forward. Our heads weigh 10 to 12 pounds. When our posture is upright with ears over shoulders, our spine supports this weight optimally. For every 10 degrees our head bends forward, we add about 10 pounds of strain on our neck and shoulder muscles. Typical texting posture is equivalent to 60 pounds of weight on our necks. That’s like carrying my kid around all day, hanging off my neck!

The quick fix is, of course, to get off the phone. Screen time monitoring apps and mindfulness techniques are useful tools to address the social and emotional impacts of too much time on our phones. To address the physical impacts, try these muscle release tools to balance the head forward posture of modern phone use.

Better screen posture

Raise the phone in front of your face, keeping chin level. Tuck your elbows in toward your torso to decrease shoulder strain. Instead of looking down with your whole head, keep your chin level and look down with your eyes.

Slacken neck tension with TV watcher pose

Lie on the floor on your belly. (If lying on the floor bothers your back, fold a blanket under your belly for support.) Cup your chin in your hands, elbow under your head. Let your hands hold the weight of your head as if your neck could just hang from your hands. Breathe deeply for 30 seconds, relaxing your neck, upper back and chest. Note, this stretch may be intense! When finished, shift the weight of your head into your left hand. Press your right hand against the floor to gently lift your body up.

Neck press and release

Interlace your fingers behind your head, cupping the base of your skull, as seen below. Bring your head back so ears are over your shoulders, jaw is soft and chin is level, not tucked towards your chest. Gently press your head directly back into your hands, keeping your chin level and jaw soft. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then release the press. Remember, less is more! Press gently, holding when you feel your neck muscles begin to engage. Repeat 2-3 times.

Unable to clasp both arms behind your head comfortably? Try this same press and release lying on your back. Be sure your gaze and chin are level and press your head directly down into the bed, mat or floor.

Pain Specialist Ginny Hamilton studied Integrated Positional Therapy (IPT) with its founder, Lee Albert at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA. A certified yoga instructor and Reiki Master Teacher, Hamilton offers classes and private sessions in Amherst, Hadley, and South Hadley. Contact her at: ginny@ginnyhamilton.com.




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