Date
15 August 2018
When patients first find themselves suffering from neck pain, their first response is to buy a new pillow. But that may not be a long-term solution, according to experts. Photo: Reuters
When patients first find themselves suffering from neck pain, their first response is to buy a new pillow. But that may not be a long-term solution, according to experts. Photo: Reuters

Cervical spine disorders

I recently began organizing information in order to build a database for my clinic to help it capture and analyze patients’ diseases better. As I undertook the work and pored through data, I discovered that almost 30 percent of my patients suffer from various kinds of cervical spine disorders.

The youngest patient with neck pain is only fourteen years old. It is indeed no longer news that there are younger and younger patients with cervical spine disorders, and now I am even more concerned since I have become a father.

On top of causing neck pain, common symptoms of cervical spine disorders would be shoulder pain and frequent headache. If the cervical nerve is squeezed or stimulated, it may cause numbness and pain in upper limbs and fingers.

If an acute inflammation occurs in the neck tissue, neck pain may suddenly appear in the middle of the night, which can have a severe negative impact on the quality of sleep. Some patients may also feel nauseous or have pain behind their eyes.

When patients first find themselves suffering from neck pain, their first response is to buy a new pillow. However, according to my clinical experience, the new pillow will only help improve the patients’ situation in the first few weeks. When the neck pain comes back again, the patients will then realize that the pillow is not the cause.

As a matter of fact, it is the bad posture that causes cervical spine disorders.

Bad sitting posture is common in the office: When a worker’s head and neck protrude forward, his shoulders are lifted up and tightened. The upper back is also bent forward to form a rounded back.

Neck pain is also a result of weak upper back and shoulder muscles due to lack of exercises. In general, people who have sprained the cervical spine in accidents, constantly work under pressure, or have a physically demanding job, are more likely to suffer from shoulder muscles strain and neck pain.

With the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets, I have found that more and more patients suffer from cervical spine disorders due to the prolonged use of these products.

Every time I am on the MTR, I can see many people bowing their head and rounding their back to indulge in the online world. I believe that most of them will suffer from different degrees of neck pain sooner or later.

What puzzles me profoundly is that more and more schools require students to bring their own laptops to school because they have to use the devices to review and do their homework.

Often, students not only have to carry a heavy bundle of textbooks, but also sports shoes and gym clothes for their physical education classes. I would like to point out that the laptop is an extra unnecessary burden on young students’ neck and shoulders.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 24

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版] 

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JC/BN/RC

Registered physiotherapist in Hong Kong and Australia

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