People often joke that modern society is a, “pain in the neck.” Many people don’t even realize how true this is! Your cell phone and other devices are now part of our daily lives and health problems are becoming associated with their habitual use.
There are basically three ways that the hard and soft tissues of the neck become damaged: by trauma, by disease, or by poor posture. Using computers, phones, and various mobile devices cause most of us to spend many hours per day with our heads bent down. However, the human neck is designed to spend most of its time facing straight ahead, only flexing and bending as needed to duck under something low-hanging, to look at where you’re about to step, or turn your head before crossing an area with oncoming traffic.
But a recent study concluded that about 79 percent of people ages 18 to 44 have their cell phones with them all or almost all of the time. Add to that other modern tasks that have us hanging our heads low — like reading, writing, studying, working on computers, gaming, etc. — and it’s easy to see where all the neck strain comes from.
The Symptoms of Neck Problems Due to Using Mobile Devices
Doctors see an uptick in these neck problems across all age patients. It’s earned the name, “flex neck,” or, “text neck,” although texting is certainly not the only activity that causes it.
The symptoms of “text neck” include:
- Neck pain or strain
- Shooting pain down the shoulders and arms (indicating potential nerve damage due to the vertebrae pressing on the sensitive nerves in the neck)
- Upper back pain
- Breathing problems
Office Workers are at Especially High Risk
As you can imagine, neck problems are pretty common among office workers, who spend lots of time on the phone, and get into the habit of propping the phone between their cheek and shoulder to free their hands to use the keyboard. This holds the head at an awkward and unhealthy angle for too long, and is definitely not advised by orthopedic doctors, neurologists, chiropractors, and other medical professionals, who see these types of injuries more and more frequently. A recent study estimates that about half of all office workers content with some form of neck pain.
What to Do if Your Phone Mobile Devices Cause Neck Pain
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor for a definite diagnosis, and to make sure you don’t have any underlying issues besides flex neck or text neck, such as orthopedic or neurological disease. After you’re certain your neck pain is due to your cell phone or other devices, you can do several things to heal and prevent future pain and damage:
- Use earphones, speaker mode, or a hands-free device like Bluetooth to keep your head straight when talking on the phone.
- Hold your devices at eye level instead of dropping your head to text or use the phone, read, study, etc.
- Adjust your desk so that your computer screen is at eye level and you don’t have to drop your head to work.
- Take frequent breaks when using your phone.
- Use good posture all the time, especially when using mobile devices.
- Exercise, including proper stretching, helps strengthen your neck so that you’re more resistant to strain and injury. Believe it or not, strengthening your core actually helps prevent neck injuries because your core muscles help support peripheral muscles in all extremities, including the neck.
- Invest in a good orthopedic-cervical pillow that keeps your head and neck aligned properly while you sleep. There are various sizes available, so get one that fits your body size well.
Perhaps the phones and mobile devices of the future will be better designed to prevent stress and injury to the neck and spine. Until then, pay attention to your posture, especially when using your cell phone, to protect this sensitive and important body part.