Neck and Net

During the last one year of lockdown and introduction of online classes there has been an epidemic of neck pain among the students.

God has given us a neck which connects the head with the body. It supports the head and acts as a conduit for transmission of many vital structures from head to body and vice versa. Neck has a column of seven bones supported by discs, ligaments and muscles. Neck also contains food-pipe(esophagus), wind-pipe(trachea) and many vital blood vessels. The cervical spine has a normal C shaped curve with its convexity anteriorly. The cervical spine has the highest mobility as far as spine is concerned. We can move our head up, down, right, left and we can also rotate the head. This mobility of the cervical spine helps us to ward off dangers from predators.

Pain in Neck
It has two meanings: Proverbial pain in the neck means something very irritating to the mind. This phrase originated in 1900 as a replacement for the commonly used vulgar term.
The physical pain of the neck. This pain is usually the organic pain inflicted on a human being by the changing lifestyle of modern times.
Pain in the neck can originate from bones, ligaments, discs, or muscles. This pain is usually felt either in the neck, in the interscapular area, at the inferior angle of the scapula, and is sometimes radiated to arms. There may be associated dizziness or tingling sensations in the fingers. The pain in the neck is usually because of: Repetitive abnormal stress on discs, ligaments, and muscles of the neck. Poor posture is the main cause of this type of pain.

Inflammatory disorders like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgias, and Ankylosing Spondylitis
Degenerative disorders.
Infectious disease (pyogenic and tubercular)
Cardiac (MI)
Referred pain from the esophagus, trachea, etc.

Who is at risk?
The occupations which involve continuous bending of the neck for prolonged periods of time have been found to have pain in the neck, stiffness, vertigo etc. In our valley tailors, papier-mache workers, wood carvers, bank clerks are the profession who have a higher percentage of neck ailments. The problems in the neck because of this bad posture usually occur after 40 years of life. However, over the last decade the neck problems have exponentially risen in the younger population particularly in school and college students. During the last one year of lockdown and introduction of online classes there has been an epidemic of neck pain among the students. After interviewing a number of students it was found that most of them used to sit on the mobiles, laptops, I-pads etc for more than 6 hours a day. Such students are involved in age groups between 10-25 years. After interviewing them it was found that besides the online classes they were usually busy with net games and net chats. Most of these patients had stiff neck pain in the shoulder region besides headache and eye sprain. It is in the context of this epidemic of neck pain in our student class that forced me to write a few lines for these future builders of Kashmir.

Net is a part of our modern life and we have to live with it. But we can utilize it properly without hurting our neck by observing certain principles:

  1. Keep the device like mobile, laptop, I-pad etc. at the level of head or eyes.
  2. If one is working on a table like a bank employee, keep the position of the monitor from right to center and then left every month.
  3. For students and families who can afford the mobile should be linked to a TV set.
  4. After every hour on the net, stop. Stand, stretch your neck up downright left for 3-4 minutes and walk around in the room for 3-5 minutes and then sit down again on the device.
  5. Use one pillow during sleep.
  6. Enjoy TV while sitting, not sleeping.
  7. While reading a book, newspaper, lift it up or put it on a table or lean backwards on the wall. While reading don’t keep neck bending for prolonged periods of time.
  8. Mental stresses cause spasm of neck muscles and increase pain in the neck that is why during examinations students get more pain in the neck. So avoid mental stresses.
  9. Cold is also a physical injury and neck pain increases during winter so protect yourself by proper clothing.
  10. If the above instructions are followed many people may get benefitted without resorting to medicines.

It has been observed that neck pain is rare among village women who carry heavy head loads. This is because their neck muscles are strong and these muscles prevent any damage to discs ligaments and bones. So let’s resolve to avoid all those postures of the neck which cause problems in the neck.

Let’s do simple exercise for our neck. Let’s avoid unnecessary time on net.

Prof Manzoor Halwai retired as head department of Orthopedics, Government Medical College Srinagar.

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