"Q: My son is 15 years old and has terrible neck pain and headaches. This has been going on for the past year. We have taken him to our family doctor, where they diagnosed him with tension headaches and put him on medication. At first, the medication worked, but in the past two months his headaches have worsened. He complains the most when he is watching TV, on the computer or playing video games. Do you have any suggestions that could help? - Taylor, Chillicothe.
A: I followed this question up with a few other questions to the mother. I wanted to know how her son's time was spent throughout a normal day. Her son's normal day showed the following: two to three hours watching TV per day, two hours on computer during school week and up to six to eight hours on the weekend per day, 200 text messages per day, and one to two hours a day for homework, video games, other. He would do little to no physical activity. He had physical education for only about half the school year. His weight was normal. He spent an average of 95 percent of his waking hours with technology (computer, video games, TV, etc.).
This is a very bad situation that could cause some long-term chronic health-care problems. This patient is becoming more and more prevalent throughout all doctor's offices. We live in the information age of technology creating muscle imbalances from posture stress. One of the possibilities that could be creating problems for your son is forward head posture (FHP). This is where the head is positioned forward on the shoulders. When head shifts forward for a prolonged time or repetitively you create a common muscle imbalance called upper crossed syndrome (UCS). The combination of the head forward on the shoulders and the muscle imbalance it creates over time causes problems to arise from the mid torso up to the head.
Upper crossed syndrome was originated by Vladimir Janda. Dr. Janda was known as the "Father of Czech Rehabilitation." The upper crossed syndrome is defined as tightness of the upper trapezius, pectoralis major, and levator scapulae and weakness of the rhomboids, serratus anterior, middle and lower trapezius, and the deep neck flexors, especially the scalene muscles. This is the musculature of the cervical spine, thoracic spine, and shoulder. When we sit and watch TV, spend time in front of computers, video games, text messaging, internet and/or TV on phones etc., a posture imbalance occurs. All this technology leads to what I call micro traumas to the upper thoracic spine, cervical spine, and shoulders. Over time, this posture stress will create muscle problems, which will lead to skeletal problems.
If you view an individual from the side, their ear should be in line with mid shoulder, mid hip and lateral ankle. So you should be able to drop a plum line off the back of your ear and it should fall through the middle of the shoulder all the way down to the ankle. For every inch of forward head posture, there is an additional 10 pounds of stress on the cervical spine. The average head weighs 8 to 10 pounds, and for every inch of FHP, you can almost double the weight of the head putting stress on the skeleton. On an X-ray, you can measure the amount of FHP for a definite number. I have teen- aged patients who measure 4 inches of FHP and are starting to develop that dreadful hump at the base of neck. This hump is called a Dowager Hump and can cause compression fractures (anterior wedging) later in life. When you walk through a doorway and your head pops through before your body does then you probably have FHP." (Continued via Chillicothe Gazette, Dr. Brandon Hanes) [Ergonomics Resources]