If the numbers from Pew Research are accurate, more than 91 percent of Americans own a mobile phone and more than 60 percent keep track of the world on a smartphone. This means there is a high probability the readers of this blog post have their heads tilted down, staring at their small screen. This has led to big health problem.
Reading and sending text messages and emails, checking Facebook status, checking a weather or traffic app or reading a blog post from Texas Back Institute on a mobile device all require an awkward downward tilt of the head for extended periods of time. This can lead to a condition which popular and medical media call text neck.
According to several reputable medical sources, including the University of Nebraska Medical Center, “The term, text neck, was first coined by a chiropractor in Florida. It’s defined as overuse syndrome involving the head, neck and shoulders, usually resulting from excessive strain on the spine from looking in a downward position at hand-held
devices such as cell phones, mp3 players, e-readers and computer tablets.”
“When anyone spends a long time texting or otherwise viewing their mobile phone, there is a potential for strain in the cervical spine,” noted Texas Back Institute back specialist Nayan R. Patel. “This can lead to neck and upper back pain.”
Is Text Neck a Real Problem? OMG Yes!
According to research published by Kenneth Hansraj in Surgical Technology International and highlighted in a November 2014 article in the Washington Post, “the human head weighs about a dozen pounds. However, as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it is 49 pounds and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds.”
The research notes smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day, “hunched over, reading emails, sending texts or checking social media sites.” This results in 700 to 1,400 hours per year where people are putting the equivalent weight of an 8-year-old child on their spines.
“High schoolers might be the worst,” noted Hansraj, “They could conceivably spend another 5,000 hours a year in this position.”
“Without doubt, younger mobile phone users spend more time in this awkward, texting position,” noted Dr. Patel. “However their spines are more flexible since they are less likely to have arthritis or disc problems than older users.”
“The young can handle this stress better, but as one gets older, this constant texting or bending over a smartphone can exacerbate existing disc problems or arthritis,” he said.
What Can be Done for Text Neck? RBTL!
This research suggests 58 percent of American adults are at risk of this condition, which is about the number who own smartphones. Plus, other medical conditions may occur from hours and hours of mobile phone staring. The report notes that poor posture has been linked with reduction of lung capacity by as much as 30 percent. “It has also been linked to headaches and neurological issues, depression and heart disease.”
As is often the case, prevention is the best cure for text neck. Dr. Patel offers a few suggestions to avoid this pain.
“Improve your posture and neck strength by doing certain yoga poses and isometric exercises,” he said, “but the best way to avoid this condition is to change the way one looks at these small screens.”
“Try using your eyes to look down, instead of bending your neck to see the screen, or hold the screen close to eye level,” he said. “You can also improve the range of movement of your neck by gently moving your head to its end-range up and down, turning left and right, and bending side to side a few times every day. Also using your hands to provide a slight resistance and then pushing the head in these same directions with improve isometric strength,” he said.
It is impossible to reduce our thirst for technology and text neck is an unfortunate byproduct. If you spend a great deal of time, in this awkward, neck tilted forward position, try taking Dr. Patel’s advice. However, if this pain in the neck continues, contact us for an appointment…B4N.