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Tech Neck-Impacts of Electronics on Your Spine

By Karen Holmes, Newburyport.Com Correspondent
Karen Holmes, DPT has been a physical therapist for over 30 years. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Therapy from Northeastern University and later obtained a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from Simmons College. She worked many years specializing in the treatment of orthopedic/sports related injuries and now owns a successful private practice in Salisbury, MA.
Holmes Physical Therapy
tech neck, Newburyport MA

If you spend time daily on a smart phone, laptop or other electronic device, you could be at risk of a growing medical condition known as tech neck. While this term may not sound that serious, over time, poor posture, attributed to smart devices, can lead to spine degeneration, pinched nerves and muscle strain.

How many times a day do you pull out your phone for a quick glance or to check email? How many hours do you spend working on your laptop? Do you spend a few hours a week catching up on the news or reading a good book on your tablet? Often we don’t even realize we are using our smart devices as frequently as we are, so these numbers may alarm you. The average person spends 14 to 28 hours a week, a staggering 700 to 1400 hours per year on their electronic devices, never mind the hours spent at work. Many folks may spend an additional 35 to 45 hours per week on electronic devices, depending upon their profession. And as the use of these contemporary conveniences have become more common, so have the number of people dealing with headaches, achy necks and shoulders and other associated pains related to tech neck. 

The good news is we don’t need to give up our handy little devices in order to protect our bodies from tech neck. What we have learned is that many electronic users look at their screen below eye level, causing their heads to flex forward. With each degree your head tilts, the strain on your spine increases. Simply being mindful of your head and neck posture when interacting with your devices will remedy much of your problem.

 If your symptoms persist or you feel like you spend quite a bit of time on smart devices, it’s a great idea to meet with a physical therapist trained to address tech neck. Located right in Salisbury, we at Holmes Physical Therapy, will not only address your current aches and pains with proper exercises focused on preserving the spine, but also help teach you the correct ways to use your devices to eliminate problems in the future. Many times, we find that changing our clients habits and environments, from proper work stations to simple posture tweaks, can be hugely beneficial.

Smart devices are incredibly useful and have made our day to day lives so much more convenient, but it is so important that we interact with them properly. So the next time you reach for your smart phone or pull up a chair to your laptop, do a quick check  of your head and neck posture.

Protect Yourself from Injury While Gardening

By Karen Holmes, Newburyport.Com Correspondent
Karen Holmes, DPT has been a physical therapist for over 30 years. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Therapy from Northeastern University and later obtained a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from Simmons College. She worked many years specializing in the treatment of orthopedic/sports related injuries and now owns a successful private practice in Salisbury, MA.
Holmes Physical Therapy
Protect Yourself From Injury, Holmes Physical Therapy, Salisbury MA

Gardening is a great way to get some exercise while enjoying the fresh air and beautifying your home.  It should be enjoyed and considered a “work in progress” not a task to be completed in one weekend.  If you do garden there are many things you can do to protect yourself from injury.  First apply a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply it throughout the day.  Wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses.  Use an insect repellent with DEET, tuck your pant legs into your socks or wear high rubber boots.  Always check for ticks.  Wear a good pair of gloves and appropriate footwear-NO FLIP FLOPS.  Prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water even if you don’t feel thirsty.  Some of the effects of dehydration are dry mouth, thirst, skin flushing, fatigue, chills and dark colored urine.

Use proper equipment by selecting tools that improve your grip and minimize bending and carrying.  Choose long handled rakes and hoes so you can stand upright.  Make the “OK” sign with your thumb and index finger; this is the ideal grip diameter of a hand tool.  Using knee pads when kneeling can protect your knees, some come with handles that can assist you getting up and down to reduce back strain.  Others come with long handles and can be flipped upside down so that the cushion becomes a seat.  I recently switched to a lighter weight hose and am amazed at the decreased strain to my neck, back and shoulders.  Using a 2 wheeled cart vs. a wheelbarrow also reduces muscle strain as it is more stable.   An ergonomic watering can is helpful for those with arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Lift with your leg muscles not your back.  Face the object you intend to lift, squat down keeping your back straight and tighten your abdominal muscles, then lift.  Keep your feet shoulder width apart and distribute the weight of the load equally across your body to help protect yourself from injury.  Don’t twist; take small steps while turning your body.  Protect your neck and shoulders when reaching; keep your arms at or below shoulder level if possible.  Keep your shoulders away from your ears!  If you have to work above shoulder heights then take a break every 5 minutes to stretch your neck and back.

Overuse of repetitive motions such as digging, weeding and constant gripping can cause tendonitis of the wrist and elbow.  To minimize the chance of injury take breaks every hour, change your activity when possible.  Stretch throughout the day.  Break heavier tasks into shorter sessions.  Never work through pain or you may cause a serious injury if you push yourself beyond your limits. Stretches that counter the forward bend position are helpful at the end of the day.

Don’t be a weekend warrior.  Take the necessary steps to protect yourself from injury.  It may be discouraging not to complete a task or make your garden look as good as you had hoped.  But it will be more frustrating if you end up in so much pain that you can’t do anything.  However should you develop pain that lasts more than a few days,  Holmes Physical Therapy can help.  We specialize in the treatment of orthopedic and sports related injuries and will be happy to assist you in your return to safe gardening.

PT Treatment Based on Evidence Based Medicine

By Karen Holmes, Newburyport.Com Correspondent
Karen Holmes, DPT has been a physical therapist for over 30 years. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Therapy from Northeastern University and later obtained a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from Simmons College. She worked many years specializing in the treatment of orthopedic/sports related injuries and now owns a successful private practice in Salisbury, MA.
Holmes Physical Therapy
Karen Holmes Physical Therapy, Salisbury MA

Today’s  physical therapists are highly educated professionals,  most have graduate degrees and many have clinical doctorates.  Physical therapists base their treatment plan on evidence based medicine to restore mobility, reduce pain and optimize function.  The vision statement for the physical therapy profession is   “transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”

Physical therapy can help reduce pain without medication and can help prevent  the need for surgery.  There are many studies today that show physical therapy  is as effective as surgery for knee osteoarthritis and meniscus tears.  Receiving treatment from a physical therapist for low back pain is often successful and less expensive than other options.  In many cases expensive imaging costs (MRI’s) are avoided.

Many physical therapists provide “hands- on” treatment in addition to other modalities.  There is an art to physical therapy that is developed with practice and experience.  Also there is scientific evidence supporting the application of manual skills to enhance patient outcomes .

At Holmes Physical Therapy we specialize in the treatment of orthopedic and sports injuries.  Combined, our four physical therapists have over 100 years of experience.   We regularly attend courses and seminars to keep relevant with today’s medical evidence and current  treatment  concepts.  We customize our treatment plans based on individual goals, challenges and needs.

For more information regarding physical therapy please visit the American Physical Therapy Association website MoveForwardPT.com.  You can also find out more information about Holmes Physical Therapy at  KarenHolmesPT.com.

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