Wellness

Work at a Desk? Here’s How to Prevent Arthritis

by Chelsea Loren November 19, 2017
ReadWork at a Desk? Here’s How to Prevent Arthritis

Have you ever heard of “reversed neck curve”? What about “text neck”? I hadn’t, until recently, though I’d experienced its repercussions and aggravating pain for years: chronic headaches, tightness in my shoulders and neck, the occasional slip of a disc. A few weeks ago, I had just returned from a month-long road trip and was moving boxes out of my room. I lifted what I thought was a cardboard box filled with blankets in the exact way you’re instructed never to lift: bent over and with my back. Big mistake. HUGE. I quickly (painfully!) found out it was much heavier than it let on—silverware and plates were buried below the fluff.

 

The box dropped, but it was too late—the damage was already done. The following week, it hurt to get out of bed; I was unable to bend; I couldn’t pick up my dog; and simple necessities like changing my tampon were impossible feats. Even after constant cycles of using an at-home TENS Unit, followed by ice, heat, and the occasional massage, nothing seemed to change. Enter the chiropractor, Dr. Abbey; at our first meeting she said, “We’re not going to do any major adjustments today. Simply an in-depth analysis of your back and neck and how your body is operating.” X-rays were required, and she wouldn’t adjust me until she had a closer look at what was going on.

 

Despite my internal screaming protest (“Fix me now! Do you know how much pain I’m in?”), I got the X-rays done and returned back to Dr. Abbey’s office. She marked up the photos of my spine with yellow arrows, half circles, and crooked lines. “Chelsea, this is what a normal spine and neck looks like,” she motioned to a different set of photos, “And this is what yours currently looks like. See any differences?”

 

Oh, just a few… The yellow marks she made on my X-rays denoted different degrees of curvature misalignment. As if seeing the pictures wasn’t bad enough, there were numbers in place too, similar to a judge’s scoring system—except this scoring detailed just how many degrees my neck and spine were failing.

 

“Not good,” she said. “Are you aware that you have a reversed neck curve and Grade-2 arthritis forming?”

 

I shook my head. “Reversed neck curve? Grade-2 arthritis?”

 

She nodded. “I’m a little shocked, as I usually see this in older patients, and you’re young… however, I’ve heard it’s becoming more frequent with millennials and the use of technology.”

 

Ding, ding, ding! As a writer and photographer, I’m constantly working on my laptop or replying to emails from my phone—and usually not paying attention to my posture. A normal human neck is supposed to curve just slightly, almost like a backwards banana. My neck was going the exact opposite way.

 

This is not a straight spine.

 

When your neck and back aren’t aligned, it can cause trauma to other parts of your body and nervous system: digestion slows, your metabolism decreases, weight can linger. Dr. Abbey said, “Think of your spine and neck like a freeway. It’s connected to all these different off-ramps and roads, sending cars (or messages) to parts of the body. When one car crashes or stalls, it has a direct impact on all the other cars. Maybe if it’s just one or two, traffic isn’t so bad, but you’ve seen the 405 at rush hour, right? Nothing gets through! That’s kind of like your spine. When one little spot is out of line, it affects everything else. And right now, your neck, shoulders and lower back are all causing a traffic jam.” Super.

 

Dr. Abbey reassured me not to worry; it can be reversed and corrected. “What we have to do is retrain your spine and neck to curve in the proper manner by guiding each joint into place—similar to going to a weekly conditioning or workout class, but for your spine.”

 

How to save your spine from “text neck”

 

For those with similar symptoms and work habits, she suggests the following measures:

  • Use a Denneroll (a foam cushion similar to a yoga block) for 20 minutes a day by laying on the floor and resting it under your neck.
  • For immediate action, roll up a towel and secure it with hair ties on either side, place it behind your neck, and lean your neck back for 10-minute periods throughout the day.
  • Lay on a hard surface, pull your knees in and wrap your arms around your legs and roll around (you’ve probably done this in yoga class before) for a spinal massage.
  • If you use a laptop, get a lapboard that raises your screen up higher so you aren’t leaning forward.
  • If you’re on a desktop computer, lift your monitor up with a crate or something of the sort and use a bluetooth keyboard.
  • When on your phone, be conscious of your posture and the way you’re slouching forward to read text.

 

Now, my neck is not going to reverse overnight, but at least I can take measures to combat the problem, and with adjustments overtime, it will get better. And for heavy tech users like me, I want to issue this word of caution: your tech habits can really take a toll! Pay attention to the position you’re in when you’re scrolling, typing, or picking the right filter… before it becomes a permanent hump.

 

Are you suffering from a tech-related ailment? Or does this sound like you? Tell us your story in the comments below!

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