“Sit up straight!”
How many times have we heard these words? How many memes do we see circling the internet about our cell phone heavy population staring at their screens, necks cricked at impossible angles so that they can button-jam the latest mobile game or hit that Like button over and over again?
And how many of you, dear readers, just sat up a little straighter while reading this?
According to the Text-Neck Institute (2017), there are over 4 billion mobile phones in the world. Americans alone spend an average of 2.7 hours per day communicating and socializing on their phones. That is over 985 hours spent staring at a cell phone screen each year, often with the neck held at an uncomfortable angle for best screen visibility. The impact of hours spent at awkward angles is beginning to show in our society, leading to an increase in young people visiting doctors and chiropractors with complaints of neck pain, migraines, and headaches. The diagnosis? Text Neck.
Text Neck is a new diagnosis, coming hot on the heels of the digital age. As individuals stare at their cell phones, tablets, handheld gaming systems, and other devices they flex the neck forward, looking down into their hands. This range of motion can lead to spinal degeneration, muscle damage, nerve damage, arthritis, spinal misalignment, and flattening of the spinal curve. In short, Text Neck leads to pain and long lasting complications, particularly if left untreated.
How to Avoid Text Neck
Good posture is the primary means of avoiding Text Neck and many other posture related illnesses. Posture, in and of itself, is not a new concept. It refers to the alignment (or positioning) of your body when you are sitting, standing, and lying down. When the body is properly aligned, the muscles and ligaments are able to work efficiently and decrease unnecessary strain across the body. When the body is not properly aligned, as is the case with Text Neck, there is increased wear and tear on the body which causes degeneration and discomfort (LiveStrong 2015).
With Text Neck, the poor posture involved while holding a phone causes the neck to flex unnaturally. With repetition, the muscles of the neck begin to compensate for the odd angle, placing stress across the spine and pulling ligaments and muscles tight. This leads to headaches and migraines, and over time can lead to more serious issues.
To prevent Text Neck:
- Hold your cell phone or other handheld device at eye level, rather than looking down at it.
- Take regular breaks from your phone. Getting up and walking around once or twice and hour will do wonders for posture in general, and can even increase productivity.
- Watch for other times when you are looking down for prolonged periods, then adjust monitors, driving position, or other culprits so that you can look straight ahead rather than down.
How to Fix Text Neck
If you already have a case of Text Neck, or are starting to show the warning signs, there are ways to reverse the damage that has occurred. First, start using the preventative tips mentioned above. There is no time like the present to begin changing a bad habit, especially if that habit is causing you physical pain. Remember, no matter how many steps you take to repair the damage, you need to change the initial behavior that caused it in the first place.
Methods of repairing the damage:
- Stretching: Stretching is one of the simplest and most effective means of reducing pain caused by over extended muscles and tendons. Simple neck stretches will help to reduce pain and increase flexibility, freeing up your range of motion. Some excellent stretches include: The Corner Stretch and the Levator Scapula Stretch (Spine-Health, 2011).
- Core Body Exercise: Having strong core body muscle will help to stabilize and strengthen the neck and upper body. For this reason, abdominal and back focused exercises will lead to improved posture and fewer issues with posture related illness. A variety of core body exercises are available including Yoga, Tai Chi, weight lifting, and more.
- Chiropractic Adjustments: Chiropractic care can significantly reduce pain from Text Neck, while also giving you a professional perspective on the best way to improve your posture and prevent additional damage. This may not be a quick fix, but can lead to positive results over time.
- Cold Laser Therapy: Cold lasers are used to treat inflammation, pain, and damaged tissue by utilizing specific wavelengths of light. The light interacts with the cells, causing increased healing to occur.
Keep in mind that the best way to avoid Text Neck pain is to avoid Text Neck in the first place. Be mindful of your posture and how you are interacting with the screens in your life and, if you begin to feel neck pain or other symptoms of Text Neck, work to eliminate it as quickly as possible.
“Text Neck: A Global Epidemic” Text-Neck Institute 2017 http://text-neck.com/
“Why Is Posture Important?” LiveStrong June 2015 http://www.livestrong.com/article/78788-posture-important/
“Neck Stretches” Spine-Health 2011 http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/neck-stretches