Text Neck: An Epidemic in the Making

Your Smartphone can be a Pain in the Neck!

Text Neck: An Epidemic in the Making

Hello, I’m Barrie, I’m 86 and I warmly welcome you to my monthly blog Over50andfit.ca

Question: When was the first cell phone invented? Answer: In 1984 by Motorola, and it weighed more than one kilogram.

No one could have predicted the exponential growth of its technology, nor its world-wide popularity. It’s estimated that 90% of the world’s population is now within reach of a communication network. Also, no one could have foreseen the damaging health risks that “text neck” poses. Our parents used to remind us to sit up straight and not slouch. Such advice today would probably be even more prudent with our addictive overuse of cell phones. Good posture is defined as being when your ears are aligned evenly over your shoulders.

Text Neck

Text Neck is a term coined to describe a repetitive stress injury caused by excessive use of electronic devices, particularly cell phones. Many people are hunched over when texting, and are not aware of the potential permanent damage to their cervical spine. Clearly, texting will always be part of the mobile narrative, and it’s imperative that we address its damaging consequences: chronic neck and shoulder pain and severe headaches.

My purpose is to chronicle the gravity of the ever-growing evidence of health risks that text neck is generating. And to suggest possible coping strategies.

Health risks of texting

The Powerful Pressure Exerted on Your Spine

The above image aptly illustrates the pressure which a forward-head position can exert on the discs in the neck and spine. The average weight of the head in a neutral position is 10-12 lbs (4.5-5.5 kg) – think of a bowling ball. Imagine the pressure which this bowling ball exerts on the neck as you bend forward: our neck muscles, tendons and ligaments are not equipped to handle such a huge force.

Some Text Neck Symptoms

Neck problems can creep up on you slowly and insidiously.              

  • Nagging pain in neck and shoulder
  • Stiffness/tightness in shoulders and neck
  • Muscle tightness and spasms
  • Torn muscles and tendons
  • Intermittent or constant headaches
  • Nerve pain with tingling and numbness in upper limbs

Strategies for Improving Posture When Texting

  • Keep your head, neck and shoulder in a neutral position – your ears   aligned evenly over your shoulder
  • Raise your phone closer to eye level
  • Sit up straight or stand
  • Use voice commands and talk-to-text as much as possible
  • Stay active and incorporate daily stretching into your routine
  • Set your timer to go off every hour to remind you to stretch
  • Challenge yourself to text for a specific period of time each day
  • Have an image taken of yourself standing
  • Go to this site for posture tips
  • See apps below

Apps to Help Maintain Posture When Texting

There are several apps on the market to help you keep your posture aligned. The Simply Align app will alert you to adjust your posture when you tilt your phone. After 20 minutes, this app will also advise you to do neck stretches. The Posture Protector detects when you are slouching, and your screen will automatically darken. In addition, it’s loaded with posture tips and recommended stretching exercises. The Text Neck Indicator app will show that when your phone is held at an acceptable angle for viewing a green light will appear in the top corner.

To aid your recovery, you may wish to consult a health professional: a massage therapist, chiropractor, physiotherapist or kinesiologist.

I would be delighted to hear any suggestions you have, and answer any questions at Over50andfit.ca.

Yours in fitness.

Barrie

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Allan

Hi Barrie,

As always, a thoughtful topic. Do you think that maybe we folk over 50 might have the opposite problem? Whilst trying to read my phone screen with my bifocal glasses, I find myself tilting my head back. Reverse text neck perhaps?

Cheers, Allan

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