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Physician Blog Posts

Read articles on back pain, new advances in treatment options, and other current spine-related topics from our doctors.

Helping our patients feel better and improve their quality of life is our goal at the Inova Spine Program. The articles below are written by our expert clinicians to offer our patients timely tips and information on a variety of back and spine topics to help you in your daily life.

Latest Blog Post – "When Tech is a Pain in the Neck": How to alleviate neck strain while using a computer and tech devices

woman rubbing her neckWhen it comes to using tech devices, many people are concerned about eye strain, and while that can be an issue, neck pain also tops the list for tech-related injuries. As the usage of smartphones and tablets increases — in 2018, about 2.7 billion people worldwide used smartphones and 1.2 billion had tablets — more people are regularly looking down at their devices, and even those “quick checks” can add up to hours a day spent in that position. As work demands more connectivity to technology, it’s important to note how everyday activities such as typing on the computer or texting can impact our physical mobility.

"Sometimes called 'text neck' or 'tech neck,' the problem involves a hunched-over posture with head dropped down and forward, which can cause both neck pain and headaches," according to Kevin Fitzpatrick, MD, a board-certified physiatrist who works in physical medicine and rehabilitation with the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute and Inova Spine Program.

"Constantly looking down in this specific way puts a great deal of force on the back of the neck," Dr. Fitzpatrick, says, adding, "this is technically an overuse injury, just as you’d find with any type of repetitive motion that uses the same muscles over and over.”

Take Away the Strain

Whether you’re crunched down at your desk or in a hunched position on the couch at home, try putting a few of these tactics into play:

  • Put limits on your screen time. This will not only help your neck and shoulders, but also reduce eye strain.
  • Hold your device in front of you. You might feel like you’re always taking a selfie this way but changing your posture can give your neck a rest.
  • Get up and move. Take regular “movement breaks” throughout the day, by walking away from your computer, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  • Look up. As a counter-stretch, let your shoulders relax, sit up tall in a chair, and gently look upward at the ceiling or sky. You can also tilt your head to one side for 15 seconds, and then the other side for 15 seconds.

glute strengthening exercise with shoulders on the floor and hips raisedStretching and Strengthening Exercises

In addition to regular breaks, your “text neck” can be alleviated by exercises that improve your posture overall. As a bonus, these can help your balance and stability as well, Dr. Fitzpatrick says. These exercises include:

  • Plank
  • Stability ball pike
  • Stability ball back extension
  • Glute bridge
  • Locust pose

See photos of all poses here

Practice Good Posture

In addition to taking breaks and doing stretches, your neck and spine will benefit from maintaining good posture — but that doesn’t mean the “chest out” correction you see when people stand at attention. Instead, Dr. Fitzpatrick says to “Focus on creating alignment from your feet to your head":

  • Keep your weight on the balls of your feet.
  • Position your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly.
  • Let your arms hang down the sides of your body.
  • Engage your abs gently (don’t suck in your gut, that’s hard on your back muscles — instead, just “activate your core” as if you’re wearing a tight vest).
  • Focus on bringing your shoulder blades closer together and pulled slightly downward, without feeling strained.
  • Keep your chin level when you look straight ahead, and pulled slightly inward, so your ears line up with your shoulders.

As always, Dr. Fitzpatrick suggests, “Check with your physician to ensure the exercises are safe for you.” He also adds, “If you’ve been implementing regular stretches and breaks and still experience neck pain — particularly if it’s getting worse — it’s a good idea to see your doctor, since you might benefit from physical therapy or other treatment."

Fortunately, you don’t need to ditch your devices to save your neck. With these simple strategies, you can prevent neck strain, and help alleviate pain if it’s already an issue.

Blog Post History

When Tech is a Pain in the Neck (includes strength and stretching exercises)

Is Spine Surgery the Answer to your Back Pain? (Author: Corey Wallach, MD)

Injured Your Back? Dos and Don’t for Recovery (Author: Angela Santini, MD)

A Weighty Issue: An overloaded backpack can damage your child’s spine and your posture

Pain in the Neck? Artificial Disk Replacement Might Be the Answer (Author: Ali Moshirfar, MD)

Gardening Pains: Prevent Back Injury When Doing Yardwork (Author: Ali Moshirfar, MD)

Suffering From Back Pain? Let Us Help You Navigate Your Treatment Journey (Author: Carey Vincent, RN)

Spine Surgery Pioneers: Inova Spine Program Surgeons Teach New Techniques to International Visitors (Author: Ronald C. Childs, MD)

Winter Storm Safety Tips: Prevent back pain and other health events (Author: Carlo Alfano, health coach)

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