Unfortunately, something you probably have.
The incidence of Silicon Valley Syndrome in Singapore’s working population is 80-90% so, in all likelihood, this probably means that this is something you have or will develop.
When we first saw this condition back in the 90s in Northern California, we named it Silicon Valley Syndrome. Now it is world wide; you can call it ‘Text-Neck’, ‘Turkey-Neck’ or ‘Hunchback’. We can also call it ‘Computer Posture’ but it’s all semantics. They are all the same thing and it is everywhere you look. Chances are…you’ve got it too. Read on and lets see.
Stiff neck and tight, tight shoulders? Not the shoulder joint itself but that bit on the top edge of your shoulder blade. Sometimes it goes down the spine and you think that this is what it must be like to be old. It improves at the weekends but settling back at your workstation on Monday, you just know its coming back with a vengeance.
As it worsens during the day with every hour at your screen, you rub and poke and try to get your fingers into the muscles to make them release. You rotate your neck and windmill your arms. That doesn’t seem to do much either. Then the burning starts across the upper back and now it’s only a matter of time before the numbing sensation or those dreadful pins and needles appear in the fingers or spread down the arm.
What about function? That’s being lost too, I’m afraid. Is it becoming harder to pull something over your head, perhaps your polo or a sweater, or maybe that bra strap is starting to cause problems? What about reversing the car? This stiffening surely isn’t good and it definitely makes you feel old before your time.
They say that 40 is the new 30, then why at 30 do you sometimes feel 50? And just why can’t you turn your neck like before? And those recurring headaches, the ones that the GP says are ‘stress or tension’; are they getting worse? Are the Panadol 500’s still doing the trick?
Well, welcome to working life in Singapore. Your pain goes with those twelve hour working days….and it IS telling you something.
Is it stress? That’s what they tell you it is. Well, it’s not the stress you’re thinking about. It’s actually physical stress mostly. The greatest stress on your body is the physical stress of gravity acting on a slouching spine.
Of course we are designed to live in gravity, ask NASA – you can’t live without it. But you must be aligned for efficiency or there’s going to be trouble. That tension you are feeling across your shoulders is the accumulation of gravitational forces after years of slouching at your computer. This is the main stress you feel and it shouldn’t be ignored or the consequences can be quite catastrophic, especially if you end up getting nerve involvement and talking to an orthopedic surgeon.
Of course the other stresses in your life don’t help – public transport, traffic, parking charges, neighbors, taxis, politics, taxes, utilities, construction, your family, their kids, you name it…. they all contribute. And yes it is official, we in Singapore work the longest hours in the world (recent Gallup poll).
Stress is cumulative and increasingly something seems to tip you over the edge bringing back that familiar pain.
So what is Silicon Valley Syndrome and why is it becoming such a problem?
Well, basically your head is creeping forward on your shoulders as you slouch at your screen hour after hour. Your neck is straightening and the weight of your head has moved forward onto the discs. Disc degeneration is starting and eventual structural failure is what your body is concerned about, hence the pain. The head is becoming heavier due to leverage and physics and the shoulder muscles have to cope. Your body will try everything to protect its nerves and as the spinal cord comes under tension and the delicate nerves that leave your spine between the vertebrae are pinched, stretched and twisted, the muscles are instructed to tighten even more to immobilize or splint. Gradually the muscles will lose their elasticity and reduced function becomes permanent.
Worryingly, the symptoms can be far reaching because the nervous system controls everything. Digestive disorders are extremely common, headaches and dizziness of course, depressed immunity and reduced vital capacity (breathing).
A quick posture test for you
Push your head forward into really bad posture and take a deep breath. Now pull your head back onto your shoulder, standing tall and take a deep breath. Feel the difference? This is your brain stem being stressed. Imagine it like this all the time, the loss of oxygen supply to your cells, organs and tissues. Think – did you ever see anyone with poor posture running up a flight of stairs? Probably not!
And why so much fatigue? Well, this incessant muscle contraction is an enormous waste of your limited energy supply. The muscles just don’t let go – ever! Try showing me your bicep – now hold that muscle contraction. How about holding it for a day, or a week. Imagine you can’t ever let it go? Well that’s just what is going on across the top of your back and shoulders. This IS what is causing your fatigue and a good reason for your waking up exhausted each morning.
If you don’t do anything, what’s next?
Arthritis is next I’m afraid – premature spinal aging. Over 80% of you will get spinal arthritis yet it can never be considered normal. It is mostly due to your vertebrae being locked by spinal misalignment (generally poor posture). The vertebrae begin to change their shape as bone spurs form. These irritate the surrounding tissues and will eventually block the nerves. That tingling down the arms tells you the nerves are being irritated; numbness means the nerves are being pinched. A medical emergency is on the way and pain will tell you that your body is concerned.
That nagging pain was never the real problem. It was just trying to save you, give you a gentle nudge. Your body certainly knows that if you stay on the wrong track for too long, you WILL end up somewhere you really don’t want to be. The problem was the premature degeneration, the loss of function, the stressed nervous system and the impending health collapse; that’s what the pain was all about!
What are the solutions for Silicon Valley Syndrome?
You need to make changes. Make sure your spine maintains its healthy balance which means it must keep its shape. Your neck curve is there for a reason, as a shock absorber for your heavy ‘bowling ball’ head. Do what you can to get your head back on your shoulders and for this you will almost certainly need the right chiropractor to assist. Without the right intervention your spine stays painful and locked. It needs recognizing and unlocking.
My advice – find the right doctor, one who knows when to recommend X-rays, one who can read the X-ray, explain the X-ray and work from the X-ray. You don’t want guessers and you don’t want ‘one fix for all’. Your spine is unique and the person who needs to know what’s going on is you.
You need adjusting, precise and focused, and frequently enough to evoke real change. And, of course, you’ll need some stretching, maybe some gentle traction and of course some stability work so it stays put. Of course it takes a little initiative but anything worthwhile does.
Once your normal shape and movement is restored the healing powers inside you will do the rest. Pressure will come off the nerves, all manner of health improvements can be expected and you’ll get your youth back. More than that; you can cancel that rocking chair because you’re going to get back your sixties, seventies and eighties.
Who else can help you?
Until you finally recognize what it is and understand the cause, there is no solution. Certainly surgery is not the answer, as cutting away a bit of the arthritis to take some pressure off the nerves doesn’t even slow the process. It merely gives temporary relief. The drugs don’t work as they just block the pain. This is hugely dangerous as the process continues and things are going to get much, much, worse.
You may get a little symptomatic relief from a massage, or acupuncture, or ‘cupping’, or electric stimulation or even some magic lotion. However, if you have Silicon Valley Syndrome and someone says they can fix it, if they are not addressing the cause (see above) then you are only looking at a little symptomatic relief at best. There are many, many symptom alleviators out there and it’s a very good repeat business.
How long is it going to take?
This very much depends on you. How late have you left it? How much arthritis is there? How much overlying muscle? How much pain? How much loss of conditioning and, of course, your commitment to change? How willing will you be to make daily changes and to kick the bad habits that caused the problem in the first place? Anything from four weeks to six months, or then again maybe never; it really depends on where you are and how much you want it.
Still a skeptic?
If my words above don’t resonate or ring true, it doesn’t make them less true. I invite you to come and talk to us, bring in your X-rays and let us explain them to you, attend our spinal health class or read our testimonials. We have helped literally thousands with these problems and our success is exceptional.
You have but one life. It is yours to get the most out of, and your spine will determine how you are going to age. No regrets later! We urge you to take a proactive approach with your health and allow us to help you ensure a better future for yourself and for your family.
Dr Tim Errington, Total Health Chiropractic, Singapore +65 6224 6326