HEALTH WATCH: WebMD Presents Basics of ‘Text Neck’, a Tech-Induced Epidemic
By Dr. James Palermo // June 14, 2018
Using your phone can be a pain in the neck
ABOVE VIDEO: WebMD presents the basics of “Text Neck” and how to prevent it.
Well before the invention of cell phones, medical experts agreed that poor posture is the leading cause of back and neck pain.
But the explosion of 24/7 cell phone use has seriously compounded this problem, and even given rise to a new medical condition: “Text Neck.”
The term “Text Neck” was coined in 2008 and refers to the back, neck and spinal issues affecting those who spend too much time on their cell phones and mobile devices. So, it’s not just texting, but also emailing, gaming, net surfing and any of the myriad reasons we use our mobile devices in today’s instant information/communication culture.
Collectively, Americans check their smart phones over 8 billion times per day, and young adults age 18 to 24 send or receive personally an average of 109.5 text messages on a typical day.
In fact, chances are you’re reading this while leaning over a table or slumped back in a chair. Your head is tilted forward, your shoulders are curved, and if you’re on a mobile device, your arms are bent by your side and your back hunch is even more profound.
“Just look at any crowd of young people, chances are most are exhibiting very poor posture from tilting their head down to read their device. This forces their neck and back muscles to work at awkward angles just to keep the body upright, and pain and strain is often the result,” says Robert Gearhart, an operating room nurse and co-inventor with certified personal trainer and former engineer Jason Bowman, of Body Aline (www.bodyaline.com), an exercise machine designed to strengthen the back and realign the spine.
“Cell phones aren’t going anywhere, so text neck will almost certainly become a health problem of epidemic proportion in the years ahead,” Gearhart said. “If the trend continues, it looks like in 20 years, the number of people who will have spine issues due to this will be astronomical.”
A 2014 study conducted by New York spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj showed that bending your head to look at your mobile device held in your hands can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on your neck.
Hansraj’s study includes illustrations of what happens when mobile users bend their heads at 15, 30, 45 and 60 degrees to look at their devices. He advises users be cognizant of their bodies.
The average human head weighs 10 pounds in a neutral position — when your ears are over your shoulders. For every inch you tilt your head forward, the pressure on your spine doubles. So if you’re looking at a smart phone in your lap, your neck is holding up what feels like 20 or 30 pounds.
Staying in what experts call the “forward head posture” can lead to muscle strain, disc herniations, pinched nerves, and can even reduce the capacity of your lungs by as much as 30%. Over time, this chronic posture can flatten or reverse the natural curve of your neck.
“We recommend that people should continue to enjoy their smart devices, but that they pay specific attention to where their head is in space,” Hansraj told the Huffington Post. “You want to be careful that your head is straight up when you’re using a smart device.”
Gearhart also recommends that the best way to check your mobile device is to stand up straight and look at your device at eye level instead of reading it next to your torso, which usually results in your chin going down towards your chest. When spending long periods of time on a cell phone, lying prone on your stomach provides a safer and more natural passive position, which helps to restore the natural curve to the neck.
ABOVE VIDEO: WebMD offers sound advice on how to prevent the strain and pain of ‘Text Neck.’
Of course, it is not just mobile devices that can give a person back problems. There are many causes and some, such as arthritis, have no easy answers. However, Gearhart says frequently the cause of back pain can be something that can be adjusted with proper lifestyle choices, such as:
- Be aware of your body. Keep your feet flat on the floor, roll your shoulders back and keep your ears directly over them so your head isn’t tilted forward
- Take breaks from desk jobs. When working at a computer, take a short break every 15 or 20 minutes, then move around and change your body and head positions.
- Adjust your workspace. Set your computer monitor at eye level. Raise your smart phone to eye level rather than lowering your head. Get a tablet holder to elevate your device close to eye level. If possible, get a standing desk or an ergonomic chair. Don’t slouch at your desk.
- Use voice-to-text as often as possible.This cuts down on the amount of time you are looking down at your phone.
- Hold Your Phone At Eye Level. Do not look down and allow your chin to move towards your chest when you are on your mobile device. This causes the back of the neck to support the head instead of the shoulders.
“Taking some preventative measures,” Gearhart says, “is much easier than trying to treat a spine that is already out of alignment.”
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