We live in an age of glorious gadgetry.  Smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, smart tvs, etc, all of these things do a tremendous job of making our lives easier and more efficient.  We can create and send documents at the touch of a screen, we can read the news, post the latest pictures of our family for the world to see on a social media site, and we can even spend hours watching amazing videos such as those of squirrels water skiing.  All of these things are truly amazing.  We can’t seem to put these things down, and why should we?

Entertainment, work, and everything in-between is constantly there for the watching.

The downfall to all of this, is that we naturally assume the most un-natural postures when using this technology.  Our brains send signals to our bodies, that “this would be easier if we leaned closer to the screen.”  So, after a few minutes, even if we begin with the best intentions of perfect posture, our shoulders drop forward, our upper backs become hunched and our heads jut out in front of our necks.  The same thing can happen when we exercise; proper form gets thrown out the window in order to get that “one more rep” in so we can hit our goal of losing the next pound.  These postures do make it easier to see the screen in the short term and looking better in the mirror (so to the brain wanting immediate benefit, the problem is solved), however, these immediate solutions give way to long-term problems.

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When our heads slump forward and our backs hunch over, we are causing continuous damage to the spine, muscles, ligaments and nerves.  Consider that the head weighs about the same as a bowling ball.  If you hold a bowling ball close to the chest, you can probably walk around quite comfortably for a while, but if you were to hold the ball at arms-length and then walk around… not so much.  When the head translates (moves) forward it causes strain on the structures in the neck.  These structures overtime will actually shrink, harden, tear and injure.

Injuries to these areas can cause stiffness (which is usually the first warning sign), swelling, disc degeneration, and even nerve impingement (pinching).  The small problem of stiffness can lead to large problems down the line.

So, what are we to do?  Should we try to convince ourselves we can outsmart our brains with good-intentions and assume perfect posture the whole time we are liking and un-liking or pinning and un-pinning the latest pictures of family and friends?  Should we get rid of all this cool technology and go back to the rotary phone?  Of course not.  But there are some things you can do to combat these poor postures both at work and at home.

how to heal a stiff neck

One major way to combat or prevent stiff neck and other neck injuries is the double-chin 

I’m not saying go crazy on some chips or wings and all will be good.  I am saying work on some posterior head translation exercises.  In the car or at home, assume an upright posture.  Next, gently push your head straight back into a pillow (or your headrest in the car) and hold for 3-5 seconds.  Don’t tip your head up, just push your head straight back, give yourself a double-chin.  .

Another thing to do, at the end of the day, lay face up on your bed, scoot so your neck can hang off the bed…and then let it hang off.  Open your arms wide to help bring your torso back as well.  Open the chest cavity and allow your neck to relax back into extension.  These maneuvers help stretch the anterior neck and chest muscles that are notoriously shortened with our modern posture.

Another great exercise is to do some “wall angels” (no snow required).  Find a wall (I bet there are at least 4 of them near you most of the day).  Stand about a foot away with your back to the wall.  Squat down just a bit, like you were going to sit down.  Take your arms and pull your shoulders back, so your shoulder blades are touching the wall.  Pull your head back (like you did in the first exercise) so the back of your head touches the wall.  Now, keep your shoulders and your head back and slowly raise your arms up the wall and back down (like a timid referee calling a field goal in football, then changing his mind, over and over again).  Repeat 5-10 times.

Each of these exercises help reverse the damage we do to our neck and back during exercise, emailing, texting, tweeting, Facebook-ing, and all the other –“ing” we find ourselves doing throughout the day.  When done on a consistent basis, you may just find that tending your virtual farm can actually be much less of a headache than you were used to it being.

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