Text Neck – If you take a look around, you can easily see how the use of devices is affecting people’s posture. You can often see many people looking down at their phones as they stand in line, sit in a cafe or take transit. It seems to be a part of everyday life, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Looking down at your phone can cause serious implications for your spine, including:
- Upper back pain ranging from a chronic, nagging pain to sharp, severe upper back muscle spasms.
- Shoulder pain and tightness, possibly resulting in painful shoulder muscle spasm.
- If a cervical nerve becomes pinched, pain and possibly neurological symptoms can radiate down your arm and into your hand.
There is a term for these symptoms – text neck, and possibly arthritis of the spine.
Poor Posture and Text Neck Explained
When using devices, the head typically shifts forward and down, causing that normal curve to straighten or even reverse. As mentioned, this can lead to pain in the neck or upper back, as well as other symptoms like headaches or numbness and tingling into the arms and hands.
Over time, this poor posture can become the new normal for the person; meaning they are carrying this posture all day. A New York surgeon performed a study to assess the effects of forward-tilted head posture on the cervical spine, published in Surgical Technology International in November 2014. His results were summarized as follows:
“The weight seen by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees. Loss of the natural curve leads to incrementally increased stresses about the cervical spine. These stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possible surgeries.”
In the study they determined when you bend your head forward 15 degrees, it increases the weight of the head from 12 to 27 pounds. At 45 degrees, your head exerts 49 pounds. That is like carrying almost a 50-pound dumbbell on your shoulders!
Results of Poor Posture
A recent review of research conducted on forward head posture concluded teens spend an average of 7 hours and 22 minutes on screens. Children 8-12 years of age spend over 4 hours, while adults can spend up to 10 hours a day. A recent study shows that 79% of the population between the ages 18 and 44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time—with only 2 hours of their waking day spent without their cell phone on hand.
It’s not just the time on devices; it’s also how we are using them. The tendency for most people is to hold the device low on their lap; so all that time looking down at the screen is building poor postural habits in the spine.
Text Neck is now considered the new arthritis.
Traditionally, arthritis develops in our late 40’s, however, with these improper habits, we will start to see individuals with spinal arthritis in their late 20’s and 30’s.
How to Avoid Text Neck
The simple solution would be to stop using devices, but that’s not reality. A compromise would be to reduce the time on devices and if you have to use your phone for any length of time, use the best posture possible. So, how can we do this?
There is a proper posture and alignment of the spine that allows it to function well and avoid wear and tear. From the front, our spine should be straight up and down and from the side, there should be a forward curve in the neck.
Simply put, we want to look at our devices with a neutral spine. What does that mean? We have to hold it up! We want to be looking comfortably ahead while viewing our phones. We have to lift the phone up to eye level or close to it. This sounds tiring, but there are some tricks to make it work. If you are sitting, you can put your elbows on a desk or table to hold the phone up higher. It will not take any muscular effort to maintain that position. If you are standing, or there is no table available while sitting, the following technique is recommended:
Hold the phone with both hands, lift the phone up to eye level and bring your elbows together. From this position, you should be able to rest your elbows against your lower ribs/upper abdominals. From this position you should be able to look straight ahead at your phone, or if necessary, you can look down slightly with your eyes and still keep your head facing directly forward.
Devices are going to be a part of our lives. To keep our spines healthy and avoid arthritic damage, we need to utilize good posture habits at all times.
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Westwood Total Health is a busy, award-winning chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage therapy clinic and has been providing health and wellness care to families in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody since 2006. Through our quality care and patient education, we have become one of the busiest clinics in the province. Since 2013, we have consistently been voted favourite natural health clinic by readers of the Tri-City News.
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