PROLONGED USE OF PHONE CAN LEAD TO HERNIATED CERVICAL DISC DISEASE
Updated: Jun 25, 2018
Twenty-year old patient visited the clinic with sudden neck pain. Seeing how the patients neck was bent forward,I suspected FHP, or forward head posture. After explaining the condition of forward head posture with X-ray results, the patient seemed surprised and thought a straight neck was normal. I am worried that perhaps seeing too often people with their head bent forward while using their phone is mistakenly understood as a normal posture.
The life quality indeed increased with smart phones, touch screens, and computers; however, increased usage of smart phone has become an additional factor in the cause of herniated cervical disc disease, forward head posture, and spinal degeneration in people in their twenty’s and thirty’s. According to a poll from a research institute, over 90% of smart phone users have experienced neck pain. Couple of years ago, the main reasons for neck pain used to be wrong postures at work or school, external trauma, or inappropriate pillow height; however, now the main reason became smart phone usage.
The neck may look straight from the outside, but the normal form of neck spine, thus cervical spine, is a forward bent C curve. This is to effectively disperse the weight of the head that the cervical spine supports. But constant wrong posture slowly changes the shape of the cervical spine. For example, looking at the computer screen with the head extended forward or using the phone long-term while excessively bending the head downward can shift the weight of the head forward, causing stress on tendons and muscles that holds the back of the neck, which leads to the start of pain. If this continues overtime, the arrangement of the cervical spine changes to become straight, or in severe cases, the neck bents to become “Turtle Neck.” At first, you might not be aware of this condition, and as more weight continuously puts pressure on the cervical spine, the cervical disc protrudes and lead to herniated cervical disc disease. Because the herniated disc not only compresses on the nerves and trigger neck and shoulder pain, but also arm and hand pain and cramps, headache, dizziness and impaired vision; early diagnosis and treatment are important.
If there is suspicion on herniated cervical disc, then prioritize in fully understanding the basic bone structure through an X-ray. But an MRI examination is better to check the condition of the disc, change of nerve tissue, and constriction of nerve.
Korean medicine consists of acupuncture treatment and herbal medicine. Among acupuncture treatment, MSAT (Motion Style Acupuncture Treatment) is different from regular treatment where the patient rests with needles on. Rather, the doctor, in control of the patient’s neck, moves the neck and relaxes the tense muscle. Treatment done on necks that cannot turn right and left or bend backwards have shown to help recover the muscles’ normal mechanism. Chuna medicine, herbal medicine for the spine, alleviates inflammation and edema, and it also strengthens weakened cervical bones and surrounding tissues to prevent relapse. Especially in cases where the cervical disc has lost its fluidity, and bones have formed in the cervical spine like a branch, this medicine regenerates damaged tissues and nerves, thus strengthening the muscles and tendons that support the neck and also delaying degeneration.
The following are instructions in maintaining a healthy spine and preventing neck pain:
Sit by resting your low back on the back support of the chair and pull the chin backward.
When using the phone, position the phone so that the eyes look upward at a 15′ angle.
Place a 5-10 cm high pillow to support the neck when sleeping.
Stretch in between usage of phones or computer.
Relax the neck muscles by taking hot showers or placing hot wet towels over the neck.
Implementing simple and beneficial stretching exercises everyday can help maintain a healthy neck.
First is neck stretching by using a towel to adjust forward head posture. Stand up straight, hang the towel over the neck and grab unto the ends of the towel. Raise the head upward and bend backwards. Meanwhile, pull the towel forward and keep for ten seconds, repeating 30 times. For business women, replacing with a scarf is a good idea.
Second is pulling the chin while lying down. Place a towel or a cushion behind the neck while lying down, and slowly pull the chin downward. Firmly press on the towel with the back of the neck while pulling the chin. Maintain that position for 6-7 seconds and then rest. Repeat 10 times.
Third is left and right head tilting. Tilt the head to the left and press firmly on the right ear with the left hand with as much weight as the weight of the left arm for 15 seconds. Make sure the head does not turn. Repeat on the opposite side, each side three times.
Published by KoreaTimes under <Health Column> on October 6, 2015.