Do You Have A ‘Text’ Neck?
Is your use of cell phones, notebooks, laptops damaging your neck? There’s a new tech-induced health hazard in town – ‘text neck’ or ‘tech neck.”
What is ‘text neck’?
A term coined by chiropractor Dean L. Fishman DC, a few years ago, ‘text neck’ refers to overuse syndrome or a repetitive stress injury, that occurs when your head is hanging forward and down while looking at your mobile electronic device for extended periods of time.
I am amazed by how often I see people doing this while walking, eating, in transit, even driving! We are spending several hours a day using our handheld devices like smartphones, e-readers and computer tablets. This type of injury can potentially affect millions worldwide.
When users remain in the unnatural and damaging posture of looking down for a prolonged period of time, it places additional pressure on the neck and spine, lead to tightness across the shoulders, soreness in the neck and even chronic headaches.
That’s because the more you bend your neck, the more weight it has to carry.
Tech Neck – Is the anterior positioning of the cervical spine from extended use of any technology. Tech Neck is caused by close elbows a downward head and rolled forward shoulders, while using phones, tablets, or any type of hand held technology. Extensive time spent in this position can lead to major health issues.
Tech Neck Syndrome
Tech Neck Syndrome is the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long.
Tan Kian Hian, MD, Senior Consultant at the Department of Anesthesiology and Director of the Pain Management Centre, Singapore General Hospital, explains: “When you lean your head forward away from its neutral position – when the ears and shoulders are aligned – by an inch, the weight of your head dramatically increases.”
If left untreated, a ‘text neck’ can lead to the inflammation of the neck muscles, ligaments and nerves, arthritic changes, as well as increased curvature in the spine. Dr Tan adds: “This is very prevalent in our new generation of young adults who are constantly ‘connected’ to their mobile devices, even while walking.”
Tech Neck Symptoms
Tech Neck most commonly causes neck pain and soreness. In addition, looking down at your wireless devices too much each day can lead to:
Upper back pain ranging from a chronic, nagging pain to sharp, severe upper back muscle spasms.
Shoulder pain and limited range of motion.
If a cervical nerve becomes pinched, pain and possibly neurological symptoms can radiate down your arm and into your hand.
Studies also suggest, Tech Neck could lead to the chronic problems listed below:
- Flattening and possible reversal of the spinal curve
- Onset of early arthritis
- Spinal Degeneration
- Disc Herniation
- Muscle Damage
- Loss of Lung Volume Capacity
- Spinal Misalignment
- Disc Compression
- Nerve Damage
How common is Tech Neck?
And it seems increasingly common. Patients frequently come into our clinics complaining of mild to severe neck and upper back pain with associated spasms and headaches. After a consultation and exam we often inform our patients that we believe the pain is due to the excessive number of hours spent hunched over their wireless devices. Diagnosis: Tech Neck.
A recent study shows that 79% of the population between the ages 18 and 44 spends more time on their wireless devices than sleeping. Tech Neck is a risk for some 58% of American adults who own cell phones.
– Children and teens are especially at risk for suffering symptoms of Tech Neck.
Of course, this posture of bending your neck to look down does not occur only when on you’re on a wireless device. For years, we’ve all looked down to read. The problem with wireless devices is that it adds much more activity that causes us to look down – and people tend to do it for much longer periods of time. It is especially concerning because young, growing children could possibly cause permanent damage to their cervical spines, that could lead to lifelong neck pain.
What You Can Do to Stop Tech Neck
The good news is that there are ways to alleviate your muscular pain and discomfort before your condition gets worse. Dr Tan says: “It is possible to feel better just by making some changes to your daily posture and your lifestyle.”
Here’s what you can do:
- Take frequent breaks: A “text neck” is a repetitive stress injury – it can be easily prevented by taking breaks from your mobile device every 15 minutes, looking up and bringing the neck back into the neutral position. Alternatively, hold your mobile device higher so that it’s aligned with your eyes and your neck muscles are not so taxed.
- Embrace posture-focused exercises: Do exercises like yoga and Pilates, which focus your attention on attaining the right posture. You will become more aware of the way you use your mobile devices in this way.
You should seek medical attention if the above measures do not provide relief.