Published on October 6, 2014
There is a noticeable change in the trend of chronic pain patients that are being treated by chiropractors, physiotherapists and conditioning specialists. Many believe that chronic pain patients are elderly, however we are starting to notice an increase in young patients ranging from teens and twenties to mid-forties who are being referred by pain doctors and general practitioners.
It is an unfortunate trend that young people seem to have a lack of physical activity and physical literacy. We have an obesity epidemic in our younger population, as they are required to move less and simply touch a screen more. We no longer need to make an effort to go to the library, walk around to find a book, deposit a cheque, or go shopping. Most tasks that used to force us to walk, move and travel can now be done from our personal computer devices.
Is Technology Creating Chronic Pain?
Headaches, neck and mid-back pain is increasing and are some of the most common complaints we are seeing in our clinics. As technology becomes more prevalent in our world, we are forced into a heads down position when we are on our smartphones, tablets and laptops. As a result, we are constantly forcing our body into a slouched position, which ends up becoming our new normal. Micro- breaks, where we stand up and stretch, are happening less and less.
The average human head weighs approximately ten pounds. This is a considerable amount of weight that the muscles of the neck and back have to hold up as the head is shifted in front and over our bodies. Due to this new adopted position; nerves become entrapped as they exit our cervical spine and travel up the back of the head. There are just too many compressive forces on our spine from this forward hunching position. If the muscles of our back and neck don’t work hard to keep our heads over the base of support, we would fall flat on our faces, therefore they are being overworked and causing headaches and pain.
When we are born we are developed with specific spinal curvatures that distribute forces equally throughout our spine. When these curves change from lack of sitting and standing with correct posture, we cause our muscles to work in order to compensate for the spinal imbalances. These imbalances can lead to dysfunction and poor movement patterns which is the reason the muscles and joints become overworked, nerves become entrapped and we feel pain. When the pain is not treated immediately, it can become chronic in nature and our brains remember the poor neuromuscular positions and our pain becomes constant. This is called central sensitization. When this begins to occur at a younger age, it is harder to reverse. Thus, it is imperative that we educate our children on proper posture, importance of movement and physical activity and taking frequent breaks away from their technology (micro breaks should occur every 20 minutes).
The advancement in technology is great, however it comes at a cost, as we already know that those that sit for long periods of time have an increase in pain and a higher chance of decreasing their life expectancy.