The newest injury that we are seeing as Chiropractors is something that many of you can likely relate to! Even some of the youngest members of my practice!
What is text neck? It’s soreness, pain, lack of mobility in the neck and associated muscles caused by the repetitive motion position that is happening because people are hunched forward while using mobile devices. Poor posture affects all areas of the body, you can read more about why this happens in this blog post here.
Like other overuse or spinal injuries, if left untreated repetitive strains within the vertebrae in the neck can lead to degeneration, which then leads to a worsening of symptoms such as numbness, tingling and weakness in the hands, wrists and fingers, increased pain, lack of mobility, and stiffness.
Research from the Journal of Ergonomics indicates that texting can be worse than other smart phone tasks (gaming, reading, internet browsing) because the angel of head tilt tends to be more extreme. They also studied whether there was a difference when subjects were standing or sitting, and concluded that text messaging while sitting was the worst position for neck injury.
You might be thinking ‘what’s the big deal? I look down much of the day doing other tasks as well!’. This might be true depending on your daily activities, however, what’s common is that when people are using their mobile devices than tend to be on them for a more prolonged periods without moving, which is what complicates things. While holding a phone in front of you are also activating many muscles in your upper neck, back and shoulders while looking down, and although your body is designed to perform this movement, again it’s the prolonged length of time in one position that creates the additional strain.
Staying in this position consistently throughout the day affects your overall posture, other joints, and even your lung capacity and the function of other organs! Take a minute to think about your posture when you are looking at your phone using this example:
Think of your head as a bowling ball, which weighs 8-12 lbs. Where that bowling ball should be placed on your body for maximum function and the least amount of physical stress is exactly where it was designed to go – above your shoulders. If this bowling ball starts to roll forward (and remember, it’s heavy!) the angle at which it’s on top of the shoulders changes, and with this slight change in angle the pressure and weight does not stay the same, it gets magnified. This places more strain on the muscles in the upper back.
So what can you do?
- Raise the phone up when you are looking at it. Change your positions if you are planning on using your device for a prolonged period of time (stand, sit, lie down).
- Take frequent breaks – this is good for both physical and mental reasons!
- Give yourself ‘rules’ around phone use (ie. when you will turn it off) . This will affect your body and mind in other ways too, and likely increase how present you are with the people around you. You’ll also be less distracted, more productive, and most people find they are happier when they are ‘less connected’.
- Stand up straight! Think ‘sternum up’ so that you naturally position your body in it’s natural posture.
- Integrate some neck stretches and mobility into your daily routines. For ideas how to fit in the time to stretch you can watch this video or read this blog post.
- Stay fit! Strengthen your chest and upper back with any physical fitness routines.
- Get adjusted! See your Chiropractor to resolve any issues and keep a consistent schedule to help your body perform at its best.