We’re so madly in love with our gadgets that it’s difficult to look up from them. But doing so at least every once and a while may help improve posture and avoid degenerative changes in the neck.
Of the 8 billion people on the planet today, about 6.8, or 85%, of them use a cell phone - for almost 3 hours per day.
Most spine experts believe this extreme usage of the tiny gadgets is responsible for text-neck syndrome.
The term text-neck syndrome describes a medical condition where the constant and repeated forward bending at the neck associated with cell phone use leads to degenerative changes in the bones of the upper spine. These degenerative changes may compress the shock-absorbing discs in your neck, and/or lead to arthritis later in life.
Other symptoms may include neck and shoulder pain, muscle stiffness, soreness and/or weakness, radiating pain down an arm, flattening the natural (and necessary) curves in your neck or upper back, or headaches.
Text-neck syndrome is a musculoskeletal medical condition.
According to research, up to 40% of people have some form of neck pain, and most of the time it is musculoskeletal in nature. Text neck is one of a number of possible causes of this type of condition.
The good news is that, with a little effort, it’s possible to make solid improvements in neck posture and musculoskeletal-type neck pain.
The first step is awareness. If you pay a bit of attention to your neck position while engaging with your cell phone you may get a sense of how that position affects your cervical spine.
If you regularly text and use apps with your neck at a 15 degree angle from straight up and down, you may be putting up to 27 pounds of potentially harmful pressure on the bones and discs in that area.
And, the more you allow your head and neck to drop forward, the greater is that pressure. In this case, your symptoms or your risk factors for other problems (or both) may increase. A sixty degree angle puts 60 extra pounds (and not 27) of pressure on your neck, for example.
Managing your posture, your symptoms and your risk for future neck problems is largely a matter of common sense. Here are some things you can start doing immediately:
Reduce and limit your use of handheld devices
Take lots of breaks from that forward head and neck position. Getting up and moving around is a fantastic antidote to many types of aches and pains, including those due to text-neck.
Prop up your device so that the top is about level with your eyes
Try not to do your typing on your cell phone. This reduces repetitive actions while on the phone. Repetitive motion is a known culprit for musculoskeletal conditions.
Switch the hand that holds the device numerous times per day.
If you experience symptoms that persist, especially if they are painful or interrupt your ability to function normally, be sure to call your doctor.
Smart phone use is not going away anytime soon, and text-neck syndrome is on the rise. With a little awareness and effort, this is a condition you can do something about! Often simple things are all you need to make a big difference in the health of your neck!