My chronic neck pain is ruining my life. I can’t sleep, watch TV, or work comfortably, and basically nothing helps. A few months ago I discovered the root of my problem, and it turns out that my phone is to blame! If you’re not careful, it can happen to you, too.
So let’s take a walk down memory lane. In college, I started getting bouts of neck pain. It wasn’t unbearable, just a crick in the right side of my neck every 6 months or so. By the time I graduated, it would hurt worse, for a day or two about every other month. Soon, the pain would take over one week out of every month and radiate down into my shoulder. Finally, after working my first real desk job for over a year, it became a constant problem with excruciating pain and NOTHING helped. I took Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, painkillers, muscle relaxers, applied heat and ice, bought special pillows, got massages… it barely made a dent. The pain was most nauseating when I was laying down, which meant weeks at a time with no sleep, which only made me more frustrated and depressed.
Finally, after various doctors and experts told me things like “sometimes neck pain just happens” and “you’re probably sleeping weird,” one doc actually took an x-ray. That’s when I learned that I was suffering from cervical kyphosis — a fancy word that basically means that my neck lost its natural curve, and it can cause a LOT of pain. And get this: the condition is caused from years of bad posture, like looking down at your phone while texting, or at your laptop at work! It’s become so common in millennials that it’s also known as “Text Neck,” and once you have it, there’s no going back. So, I’m here to save you from my own horrible fate, and tell you 5 ways to avoid cervical kyphosis.
1. Don’t look down to text. This is probably the number one contributor to neck pain for millennials. Think about it, you spend hours a day with your head tilted down reading texts, answering emails, or watching videos. That’s not a natural posture for humans and it can really mess you up. I know it feels weird, but hold the phone up in front of your face. Not only will you avoid years of pain, but it’ll also help prevent that double-chin prob.
2. Get a good desk setup. You want your monitor to be at eye level, so you aren’t straining your neck all day to look down at the screen. If you’re using a laptop, put it up on a pedestal and use a separate mouse and keyboard so you aren’t hunching your shoulders. And whatever you do, DON’T lay down and put your laptop on your tummy to watch Netflix. Bad idea.
3. Do NOT sleep on your stomach. Up until two years ago this was my sleep position of choice, it’s just sooo comfy! However, you’re way better off sleeping on your back and especially on your side. It allows your spine to align naturally and heal while you sleep, while tummy-sleeping forces you to turn your head to the side all night.
4. Get a GOOD pillow. My doctor couldn’t tell me what kind of pillow is right for me (since it’s different for everyone), so I literally have 10 pillows on my bed. I’ve found that a fluffy, medium-soft down alternative one gives me a good amount of support and cradles my neck, but others have had success with those curved tempurpedic ones. A little trial and error goes a long way! It’s also great to use a body pillow between your legs and under your top arm to keep your spine straight.
5. Relax. The most interesting observation my physical therapist made was that I was wearing my stress on my sleeves… well, shoulders. Even when I thought I was at ease, my shoulders were cranked up to my ears. She suggested that constantly throughout the day, I check in to see if I’m tensing my neck, and focus on pulling my shoulders down and relaxing. It’s made a huge difference!
I know all of these things sound annoying and are easy to put off doing, but I swear that the constant, irreversible pain is much worse. If you’re already dealing with it, I don’t have any good answers for you. Talk to your doctor about options, and focus on doing things to keep your spine aligned as much as possible to minimize flare-ups. Do future you a favor, and take care of your neck!
HollywoodLifers, will you be adjusting your lifestyle to avoid this issue? Let us know!