There is no denying the multitude of advantages the modern age of technology has ushered in. We can socialize, find any information under the sun, and order products all from the palm of our hand or right from our lap. It is hard to believe we once had to live without instant results and immediate gratification. All good things come at a price, however, and we are paying for it with our spine health. The constant use of handheld devices keeps our necks at such an angle that can eventually cause serious and permanent damage. Dr. Dean Fishman, a chiropractor in Plantation, Florida, coined the phrase “text neck” to describe the painful situation that arises from extreme amounts texting and overuse of handheld devices such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Perpetually flexing the head forward causes a stress injury to the neck, cervical spinal degeneration. The condition is growing at such a fast pace it is quickly becoming a global epidemic. While this is not a new medical condition, seamstresses, data entry professionals and writers have historically suffered from it, the technological boom has increased its occurrence in recent years.
It’s easy to brush off the pain when it first begins to appear. It feels much like a stiff neck from sleeping at an odd angle or a pulled muscle. Without a correct diagnosis, it can get worse. Untreated “text neck” can turn into a number of permanent and debilitating conditions including the early onset of arthritis.
Other conditions that can arise from Text Neck include:
Muscle and nerve damage
Disc compression and herniation
Decrease in lung volume capacity
Spinal curve flattening and misalignment
According to doctors, the trouble comes from keeping the head, which weighs about ten pounds, tilted down too far for too long. Tilting the head at a 40 or 60-degree angle for extended periods of time is akin to attaching three 20-pound bowling balls to the neck because the tilt increases the weight of the head. The increased weight and pressure on the spine does not only cause pain in the neck but also back pain and headaches.
Luckily, there are some things we can do to avoid the dreaded “text neck”. The most important ally against this painful condition is correct posture. Experts recommend keeping cell phones and computer screens a touch lower than eye-level and tilting the head downward only slightly. Keeping the back straight and neck at a normal angle with just a slight tilt will keep painful text neck at bay. When symptoms do occur, there are simple ways to combat them.
Some methods to fight the pain of text neck include:
Yoga – Tree pose, mountain pose, and many other yoga stances are a great help for the pain of text neck. Yoga focuses heavily on posture. Pilates and Bar Method exercises are also posture oriented techniques that strengthen and enhance healthy spine and neck muscles.
Stretches – Before and after using any technology for an extended period stand straight and look forward. Pull the shoulder blades back and tilt head slowly to both sides. This helps alleviate stress on the neck and spine.
Arm Extensions – Place the forehead and elbows against a wall. Keep the elbows at eye level and hands behind the head. Slowly lift the arms until the fingertips touch the wall and then lower to starting position again.
Chiropractic Adjustments – A chiropractor can make adjustments to the spine, neck and back that loosen the muscles and relieve the stress from added weight on the neck. They can also suggest exercises for the specific pain you are feeling.
Ergonomic Pillows – Using a pillow specifically designed for neck and back pain can help ease pain as well as aid in healing of stressed muscles.
Text neck is not the only technology induced injury we have become accustomed to. Carpal tunnel, eyesight issues and “Blackberry thumb” diagnoses have all increased with the use of our devices. Proper posture and appropriate self-care are our best defenses against a problem that obviously isn’t going anywhere soon.