Posts Tagged ‘neck pain’

How Cell Phone Use Impacts Our Neck Over Time

neck-illustrationTechnology has become an incredibly integral part of our lives. As it has adapted and changed, so have humans in the 21st century; we’re constantly on our smartphones—texting, calling, checking our Facebook updates, often for hours every day—and it may have a significant detrimental effect on our bodies.

The average human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds in a neutral position–when your ears are over your shoulders. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine (neck) begins to increase, causing stress. According to a study in 2008, if you lean 15 degrees forward, it’s as if your head weighs 27 pounds. If you lean 30 degrees, it’s as if your head weighs 40 pounds. If you lean 45 degrees, it’s 49 pounds. When you’re hunched over at a 60 degree angle, like most of us are many times throughout the day, you’re putting a 60 pound strain on your neck.

So what does this mean for your spine? This pressure can put a lot of stress on your neck and spine, pulling it out of alignment. Over time, this poor posture can lead to disc herniations, pinched nerves, metabolic problems, degeneration and even spine surgery. Think about the effect of 60 pounds for a moment – it’s the equivalent 5 bowling balls weighing 12 pounds or an eight year old child hanging around your neck.

While it is nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, there are some simple steps we can take to take this strain off of our necks. A few easy fixes include:

  • Take frequent breaks while using any mobile device or desktop computer.
  • Practice exercises to help you build strength, such as standing in a doorway with your arms extended and push your chest forward to build muscles that help posture.
  • Be mindful of your posture – keep your neck back and your ears over your shoulders.
  • Look down at your mobile device with your eyes without bending your neck.

In short, continue to enjoy the incredible benefits of your smartphone, but remember to keep your head up!

About Dr. Refai

refai-danielDaniel Refai is the director of spinal oncology at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Dr. Refai focuses on both intradural and extradural spinal tumors as well as metastatic and primary tumors of the spine. He performs complex spine tumor surgery and spine reconstruction surgery. He also directs the stereotactic radiosurgery division of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center for spine tumor treatment. Dr. Refai’s research interests include outcome analysis following surgery and radiosurgery for spine tumors. He has published extensively on the treatment of spinal disorders and has developed innovative multidisciplinary approaches for treatment. H  e is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and the North American Spine Society.

Dr. Refai completed neurosurgical residency at Washington University in Saint Louis under the tutelage of Ralph Dacey MD. He spent six months as a specialist registrar in neurosurgery at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. He completed a combined orthopaedic and neurosurgery spine fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic under Edward Benzel MD, Iain Kalfas MD, Gordon Bell MD, and others. He specializes in all aspects of complex spine surgery and is actively in clinical research. Dr. Refai enjoys teaching and has received numerous patient and medical education distinctions throughout his training.volved in clinical research. Dr. Refai enjoys teaching and has received numerous patient and medical education distinctions throughout his training.

Sources:

[1] Hansraj, Kenneth. “Assessment of Stresses in the Surgical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of the Head.” https://cbsminnesota.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/spine-study.pdf

 

How Aging Affects Your Cervical Spine – Part II: Arthritis of the Neck

NeckArthritis_ 7-7Cervical spondylosis refers to the degenerative process of the vertebral disks in the neck (arthritis). Like the rest of the body, the bones in the neck slowly degenerate as we age, which frequently results in arthritis. Most of the time, this condition causes mild to moderate neck pain and stiffness.

Causes:

Neck pain is extremely common, with more than 85% of people over age 60 being affected. It’s typically caused by chronic wear on the cervical spine as a result of aging. Facet joints in the neck become enlarged, causing the ligaments around the spinal canal to thicken and bone spurs to form. Over time, these changes can press down on (compress) one or more of the nerve roots. In advanced cases, the spinal cord becomes involved.

Aside from aging, the other factors that can make a person more likely to develop spondylosis are:

  • Being overweight
  • Past neck or spine injury
  • Ruptured or slipped disk
  • Genetics – if your family has a history of neck pain

Symptoms:

Many people have spondylosis of the neck and do not know it. This is because most of the time, there are no symptoms, or the symptoms are mild. When symptoms do develop, they are typically neck pain, stiffness, headaches (especially in the back of the head), and sometimes shoulder pain. In rare cases, the pain may spread to the upper arm, forearm, or fingers.

Treatments:

Non-surgical

Treatment for cervical spondylosis depends on the severity of your signs and symptoms. Most patients who do not have neurological compression associated with spondylosis do not need surgery. Interventional treatments for cervical spondylosis may include:

  • Physical therapy – Strengthening and stretching weakened or strained muscles to relieve the pressure on the nerve root is usually the first treatment that is advised.
  • Medications – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and pain and analgesics to relieve pain.
  • Steroid-based injectionsMany patients find short-term relief from steroid injections to help reduce swelling and treat acute pain that radiates to the hips or down the leg.

Surgical

For cervical spondylosis causing symptomatic compression of nerve roots or the spinal cord, surgery may be indicated to relieve pain and improve or preserve neurological function. For spondylosis without nerve root or spinal cord compression, surgery is typically avoided. In some unusual conditions, cervical spinal fusion can be performed.

Have you been told you need neck surgery? Over 90% of neck and back problems can be treated without surgery, but if surgery has been recommended, you may want to seek a second surgical opinion.

At the Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center, our internationally-recognized spine surgeons research, pioneer and refine the most effective approaches to treating a variety of spine conditions.

To see if you may be a candidate for spine surgery, take our five minute spine quiz

About Dr. Rhee

John M. Rhee, MD, is a Spinal Surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery specializing in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, complex spinal deformity surgery (scoliosis and kyphosis) and surgery for spinal tumors. Dr. Rhee is an active researcher and sought-after teacher/lecturer at the national and international level in multiple medical societies. He has served as faculty and been an invited lecturer at numerous meetings and courses on spine surgery. In addition, he has served as Program Chairman at numerous national and international spine surgery meetings. Dr. Rhee has also published extensively in a number of peer reviewed journals and books, and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is actively involved the training of international research scholars and other spinal surgeons and has been the author and editor of major textbooks on spine surgery techniques.

Is an Epidural Right for my Back or Neck Pain?

More than 90% of people with back or neck pain find relief through non-operative treatment. Some patients will benefit from physical therapy or treatment at a pain management center while others may need an injection or series of injections to help decrease their pain.

How do I know if a spinal injection is right for me?

Epidural Steroid Injection Back Pain

This is a difficult question to answer because not all patients are candidates for spinal injections. Some conditions are better treated with surgery while other conditions are more appropriately treated with conservative treatment including spinal injections.

Depending on the type and severity of your back or neck pain, your physician may recommend a spinal injection. The type of injection you receive is based on your specific symptoms and the physical exam performed by your physician.

What is an epidural steroid injection & how can it help my back pain?

A common injection that we perform is the epidural steroid injection. This type of injection is used to relieve radiating pain down the arm or leg. The medicine used in the injection is a mixture of long-acting anti-inflammatory steroid and numbing medication. During the injection, the physician will position you on the table and then perform the injection with the help of x-ray guidance to ensure the injection is given in the correct place.

Most patients will notice a decrease in pain within 2-3 days, but some may take 1-2 weeks to notice the benefit of the injection. Depending on your spine condition, your physician may recommend a series of epidural steroid injections. Your physician will discuss the treatment plan with you.

Epidural steroid injections are commonly administered without problems, but there is always a slight risk whenever you have an invasive treatment.

Recently, a serious concern has been raised in the national medical community regarding the use of contaminated steroids causing an infection of the spine called spinal meningitis. Fortunately, at Emory Spine Center we have always carefully selected the pharmacies we use to supply all of our medications, including the steroids used for injections. Only those suppliers with best quality control have been chosen. Clearly, the end result has been beneficial as none of our patients received contaminated steroids.

It is important to remember that serious complications like the one discussed above are extremely rare. Please visit our website to learn about the other spinal injections we perform.

About Dr. Jose Garcia-Corrada

Dr. Jose Garcia-Corrada

Dr. Garcia-Corrada is an Assistant Professor in the departments of Orthopaedics and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Emory University School of Medicine. He specializes in non-operative spine care and focuses on helping patients achieve their best functional level. Dr. Garcia started practicing at Emory in 2001.

 

Related Resources:

Is Your Desk Job Hurting You?

Neck Back Pain Desk Job PostureThese days, more and more jobs are desk jobs, meaning many people spend a minimum of eight hours a day behind their desks and at their computers. I frequently see patients with neck and back pain with no specific injury, but who spend many hours behind a computer. This type of work can have a number of health implications, including muscle and joint pain.

If you’re a desk jockey, one of the easiest things you can do to prevent pain from a poor workstation set-up is to have an ergonomic setup designed just for you. You want your chair and work station to fit you properly. Here are a few tips to help get you started:

  • Be sure your body is properly aligned with your desk and your computer. You should be able to sit straight in front of your computer and not have to turn from side to side to access it.
  • Keep your head, neck, and torso in line, and keep your arms and elbows close to your body but within reaching distance of your keyboard. You shouldn’t have to reach forward to use your keyboard.
  • While typing, your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle from your body, and your wrists and hands should be in a straight line, with your wrists in a neutral position, not arched or bent.
  • To prevent back pain, be sure your chair has good back support.
  • When you’re sitting, your thighs should be parallel to the ground or a little higher than your knees, and your feet should touch the ground. You don’t want the end of chair hitting the back of your knees—you want a little gap there.

Neck pain is a common complaint of people who spend a lot of time on the phone. If you find yourself cradling your phone between your shoulder and chin so you can type and talk at the same time, switch to a headset or use a speaker phone.

Don’t forget to get up and move around regularly throughout the day. If you feel pain during your work day, stretching and moving around can help ease that pain, as can a heating pad or ice pack. You may even find some relief by treating yourself to a massage at one of the many Atlanta spas. I always tell each patient to listen to your body. If you are having pain, your body is trying to send you a message. If you are having neck or back pain that isn’t improving after trying the tips above, make an appointment with an Emory Spine physiatrist for further evaluation and treatment.

Do you spend a lot of time behind a desk? What do you do to get moving and ease pain? We’d like to hear about your experience. Please take a moment to give us feedback in the comments section below.

About Diana Sodiq, DO:

Diana Sodiq, DO, is an Assistant Professor of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Medicine. She is Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (Physiatry). As an osteopathic physician, Dr. Sodiq is trained in both traditional medicine as well as osteopathic manipulative treatments (OMT). She started practicing at Emory in 2010.