Smart phones. Tablets. Laptops. With the increasing popularity and accessibility of technology, we are seeing an increase in physical problems associated with overuse. One of the ailments is “text neck”.
Text neck is a term used to describe neck and upper back pain that results from looking down at our screens. This action, done frequently or for prolonged periods of time, can result in neck strain as well as start to change the curve of the neck.
Consider that the human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds. As the neck bends forward, the amount of weight on the cervical spine increases. At 15 degrees, there are 27 pounds on the neck; at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds; at 60 degrees of flexion it is a staggering 60 pounds. Anyone asked to carry 60 pounds on their neck all day would surely refuse, but in reality we are doing this for hours on end by looking down at our phones. In the short term, it can lead to pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, neck strains and headaches. Long term, it can result in degenerative changes in the spine, like arthritis, and set us up for a greater chance of herniated discs.
This is not just an issue for people that already have neck problems. In fact, this is becoming a significant issue for young people. We are seeing a trend toward early degenerative changes as well as a need for neck care at a young age.
But what can we do? First, we need to modify our behavior. Holding the phone up to eye level will limit bending the head down to look at the phone. Limiting phone use to 20 to 30 minutes at a time, for a limited number of times a day, will also help.
Second, incorporating neck stretches and exercises, such as Brugger’s exercise and chin retractions, can help re-establish the proper curve of the neck and maintain a normal range of motion. Establishing good core strength is also very important for supporting the upper body.
Third, getting evaluated makes a difference. A chiropractic exam will be able to determine the current health of the spine, and chiropractic adjustments may be able to help correct any misalignments and re-establish the proper curve. Symptoms such as pain or headaches are signs that problems have been building over a period of time, and it’s important to get treated before further damage can incur.
Katie Samsel, DC, is a licensed chiropractic physician offering chiropractic care and more at Samsel Integrative Health, in Langhorne. For more information, call 215-944-8424 or visit SamselHealth.com. October 2018