An Unwanted Side Effect Of Remote Work.
Who doesn’t love working from home? Remote work means no travel, flexible hours, and a lax dress code. But there are also some downsides, like the neck pain that comes with hours at the laptop. Remote work blew up in 2020 and will only become more and more accepted in the coming years. Unfortunately, more remote workers will have tech neck: strain and damage to the cervical spine. And for a chosen few, ACDF surgery may be the only recourse.
All about the neck
The neck makes up part of the spine. There are seven bones called vertebrae with fibrous discs in between. These discs act as shock absorbers while the bones work together for the neck to move. The cervical spine also supports the head, which can weigh as much as 11 pounds. The neck, though flexible, is not designed to remain in certain positions for long periods. Flexibility also makes the discs prone to damage from behaviors like staring at a screen for hours on end.
What’s causing your neck pain?
One common condition from remote work is constant neck pain. Often called tech neck or cervical kyphosis, the condition happens because of an ongoing curved neck position. The curved position occurs when the head bends slightly to see a computer, tablet, or phone screen. Since the head weighs so much, the position places a strain on the spine, discs, and muscles. On average, Americans use screens for a least 4 hours a day, compounding the strain.
Tech use has potential long-term dangers
After hours of banging away on the keyboard, rubbing the neck symbolizes tension and pain. Without proper rest intervals, the neck grows weaker and struggles to hold up the head. The resulting pain develops into other symptoms. These could include strains, headaches, stiffness, back pain, and shoulder pain. In some cases, tech neck also speeds up the wear and tear of discs. The long-term effects include herniated discs that can lead to nerve pain and a permanent curvature of the neck. Herniated discs are severe and can require surgical intervention.
A better neck, a more productive you
Neck pain can kill productivity and quality of life. Ergonomic changes, including a better posture, desk position, chair position, and screen position, can help. Proper rest, stretching, and exercise can help. Massage therapy and chiropractic care are other effective treatment methods. If the issue has moved to a herniated disc, medication and physical therapy may be necessary. If these steps fail, and a doctor has observed serious damage, ACDF surgery can help.
Turning to ACDF
ACDF surgery stands for anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. If ACDF surgery is needed, a bulging or degenerated disc is pressing on surrounding nerves. Damaged discs cause pain, nerve damage, and weakness. The goal of the surgery is to remove part or all of the damaged disc. From there, the surgeon stabilizes the neck by fusing the two vertebrae. ACDF should relieve the pain and numbness that make work difficult.
Removing the damaged disc
To complete the surgery, the surgeon enters from the front or anterior part of the neck. Access from the front makes the procedure more comfortable. The patient should also experience less pain. Under general anesthesia, the surgeon accesses the disc through a small incision. The entire disc is then removed. The surgeon then inserts a bone graft and an implant into the vacant space. A small plate gets installed to keep the implant in place. This completes the ACDF surgery. Recovery can take 10-12 weeks on average. However, the bone will fuse over 12-18 months.
Pain-free work from home
ACDF surgery should relieve the pain and numbness developed by years of poor screen posture. With the surgery comes a loss of flexibility. However, the pain-free benefits outweigh the risks. To make the most of surgery, patients must practice proper ergonomics when resuming work. As millions continue to work from home, the risks of cervical damage will only increase. Speak with a doctor about severe neck pain and treatment options like surgery.