Are Habits Causing Our Aches and Pains?

Feb 17, 2016

Are habits causing our aches and pain?



Working in an outpatient physical therapy clinic, I see all kinds of ailments affecting the body.  From neck aches to foot pain, one thing is evident.  The way we treat our body now will determine where that pain arises later, or how easy it will be to resolve.

Let’s look at three of the most common habitual activities:


1. Text Neck: 


This is the term is used to define neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at our cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently for too long. Of course, this position of bending our neck to look down does not only occur when texting.  For years, we’ve all looked down to read.  The problem with texting is that it adds one more activity that causes us to look down, and we are more likely to do it for much longer periods of time. 


Especially concerning are the young, growing children possibly causing irreversible damage to their neck that could lead to lifelong neck pain.  An estimated 79 percent of the population between the ages 18 and 44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time – with only two hours of their waking day spent without their phone on hand.  If left untreated, text neck can result in serious permanent damage, including early onset of arthritis, disc compression, nerve damage, and loss of lung volume capacity.


Prevention is the key to treating text neck.  So what can you do different?  Something as simple as holding your phone at eye level.  The same holds true for all screens – laptops and tablets – so you don’t have to bend your head forward or look down to view it.  Also, take frequent breaks.  Get up and walk around every 30 minutes. 

 2. Heavy backpack or purse syndrome:

When carrying a heavy bag for a long time on one side, the natural bend in the neck gets distorted.  This leads to chronic neck and shoulder pain, sometimes resulting in headaches.  Over the long run, this can speed up serious injuries, such as herniated discs and degeneration of the spine.  And once again our children are at greater risks.  A study led by the Inland Empire Spine Center in Riverside CA followed 3,500 students between the ages 11 and 15.  Most students said they hurt: 64 percent reported having back pain at some time; two of every five said they experienced pain while wearing their backpacks; and of those reporting pain, 21 percent said their pain lasted more than six months and was recurrent.  Some easy solutions to prevent heavy backpack or purse syndrome include reducing the weight of your bag to around 2.5 pounds.  Carry only what’s necessary each day.  If you cannot seem to reduce the weight of your bag to under 6 pounds, consider a rolling bag – it reduces shoulder/spine strain completely.


3. Wallet Sciatica (or Piriformis Syndrome):


This condition affects men/women who wear their wallet in the back pocket of their pants.  You might not think of too much cash as a source of pain, but a fat wallet can aggravate the sciatic nerve over time.  This puts chronic pressure on the piriformis muscle, which is found deep inside the buttocks.  This muscle connects the lower spine to the upper thighbone and runs directly over the sciatic nerve.  Pain, numbness and tingling down the back of the leg and into the foot are common symptoms. If caused by a wallet, you can avoid this problem by keeping your wallet in a front pocket or jacket pocket.

Over time, poor posture may be caused by habits from everyday behaviors.  Poor posture can easily become second nature, causing episodes of back and neck pain – damaging spinal structures.  Fortunately, the main factors affecting posture are completely within your ability to control and are not difficult to change. To learn more about these issues or treatment recommendations, contact Healing Motion Physical Therapy at 402-346-7772 or visit


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