SIMSBURY, CT - Everyday, people of all ages spend hours hunched over their beloved electronic devices. And while children and teens in particular find many forms of technology entertaining, their bodies do not. In fact, Dr. Cheryl Vincent of Simsbury Chiropractic and Wellness Center is seeing kids as young as elementary school age complaining of Nintendo Neck.
Dr. Vincent explains she uses the term Nintendo Neck to make it clear that the neck pain is caused by looking down at video game screens, cell phones and laptops. And to make matters worse, most people also slouch and hunch their shoulders while using electronics, putting a great deal of stress on the spine.
"A person's head, on average, weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. If you lean 15 degrees forward, it's as if your head weighs 27 pounds,” said Dr. Vincent. “So when you're hunched over at a 60 degree angle, like most of us are many times throughout the day, you're putting a 60 pound strain on your neck.”
This weight puts extra pressure on discs in the neck and spine as well.
Dr. Vincent has actually treated people of all ages for Nintendo Neck. Patients complain of neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, elbow, wrist, and hand pain, and even thumb pain from excessive texting.
To alleviate these symptoms, a variety of treatments are used. "We are a chiropractic office, so we use spinal manipulation. It is the best way to affect the nervous system that controls the whole show,” said Dr. Vincent. “We also use joint manipulation for shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands.” Cold laser therapy speeds up the healing process by increasing circulation, decreasing pain and swelling.
Simsbury Chiropractic and Wellness has massage therapists that work alongside the doctors in their office to provide soft tissue therapy for overused muscles.
Nintendo Neck, however, is not the only ailment caused by excessive technology use.
"Carpal tunnel is a problem for anyone whose work conditions or electronic use calls for repetitive, forceful or awkward hand movements, for example, when typing or using only the thumbs for video controllers," said Dr. Vincent. "We use therapeutic exercises in the office and then have patients continue the exercises on their own at home.”
Dr. Vincent offers the following guidelines and exercises to minimize physical damage:
Preventing Muscle Strain
· Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
· Stretch your neck and shoulders in all directions at least every hour if you are working on a computer all day.
· Practice keeping your neck back and keeping your ears over your shoulders.
· Stand up against the wall and make snow angel wing movements to release your neck and upper back.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel
· Keep the wrist as straight as possible when using devices.
· Minimize repetitive movements of one's fingers and thumb when using hand-held electronic devices, especially for single-hand use.
· Take regular rest periods, so as to avoid continuous intensive use.
· Allow recovery time to prevent prolonged stress to the muscles.
But how much time is considered “overuse” when it comes to technology?
"Kids shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes at a time on gaming or computers without taking a break to move and stretch,” said Dr. Vincent. “Two hours total per day seems to be more than enough.”
It is recommended that children get 1-2 hours of physical activity per day. Dr. Vincent notes "Those early years of movement are extremely important for laying the foundation of core strength of the postural muscles that keep us straight throughout our life. Those muscles come on in layers and it’s really important to get them and keep them.”
The Simsbury Chiropractic & Wellness Center was formed in 1993 by Dr. Cheryl Vincent and merged with Dr. Suzanne Chester in 2009 to provide chiropractic care for the entire family. They specialize in creating personalized holistic wellness plans for pain relief and improved health and wellness. Using a variety of natural health techniques, they treat back and neck pain, headaches, TMJ and offer soft tissue therapy, extremity adjusting, cold laser therapy, acupuncture and more. They are located at 540 Hopmeadow St. For more information visit www.simsburychiro.com or call 860.651.3355.