It is human nature for mankind to adapt to its surroundings. Over thousands of centuries, our ancestors have evolved to become taller, smarter, less hairy, and more upright. However, advances in modern technology are creating a new challenge. Human posture is becoming increasingly compressed due to the overuse of mobile devices and dependency on social media. This physiological shift is resulting in children and adults of all ages becoming unofficially diagnosed with what many are calling “text neck” syndrome.
It’s no surprise that 75% of the world’s population spends an excessive amount of its time hunched over handheld devices instead of looking up and interacting with the world around them. While technology offers an information channel that is immediate, interactive, and innovative, it can also create a burden for those struggling with their physical-social interactions. With social anxiety disorders at an all-time high, many individuals seek (and prefer) online interactions, which deteriorate “in-person” communication skills, perceptions of reality, and overall psychological health.
The constant urge to look down at mobile devices has led to a global phenomenon known as “text neck”: an overuse or repetitive stress injury caused from hunching over a handheld device for an extended period of time. Florida chiropractor Dr. Dean L. Fishman coined the term and changed the name of his practice due to nearly 90% of his patients having the same issue. Common symptoms of text neck are chronic headaches; an increased curvature of the spine; and upper back, neck, and shoulder pain.
The average adult head weighs roughly 10lbs, and tilting the head forward 60 degrees (common texting position) can add an extra 60 pounds of stress onto the spine. According to Kenneth Hansraj of New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, “People spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over, reading and texting on their smartphones and devices. Cumulatively, this is 700 to 1,400 hours a year of excess stresses seen about the cervical spine.”
There is no doubt that this epidemic will continue to increase with the exposure of new gadgets and with new generations embracing all that technology offers. For instance, Dr. Fishman noted that his youngest text neck patient was only 3 years old.
South County Physical Therapy, Inc. (SCPT) recognizes the biomechanical impact that text neck can cause, and is committed to helping its patients combat this common condition. Luckily, the effects of text neck can be eased in time with a few simple adjustments:
- Recognition: Be aware that text neck is reversing the natural evolutionary progress that our Neanderthal ancestors developed over the thousands of centuries. Check!
- Assessment: While attempting to stop the human race from using handheld technology is simply out of the question, it’s important to be honest about how it’s affecting your posture. Start by examining your daily use – do you find that you are hunched over your devices for extended periods of time, several times a day – morning, noon, and night? If so, your spine may be crying out for help!Or, if you’re not ready to face the reality that is craning your neck, there’s an app for that. Search “Text Neck Indicator” in your device’s app store, and let the tracker alert you to your posture pitfalls throughout the day.
- Prevention: Simply keep these suggestions in mind, and try to incorporate them a little bit every day. Remember, change takes time, but with some effort, your posture will be going in the right direction.
- Hold your device in front of you at eye level while you’re using it.
- Take a break after every 15-20 minutes of use. Look up, stretch, walk around, have a verbal conversation with another human, etc.
- Knead your neck worries away with a DIY knot fix. According to the Mayo Clinic’s Allyn Kakuk, DPT, simply place your hand on the sore spot of your neck or upper back, and use your fingers to push into the knot with firm pressure. Turn your head in the opposite direction, and bend it diagonally, as if you were trying to touch your armpit with your chin. Repeat several times, and try to relax with a long stretch.
- Visit SCPT’s expert team of physical therapists to learn daily exercises to help strengthen your neck and back muscles to benefit your spine.
Remember, it’s important to take your neck and spine health seriously to protect yourself from the effects of text neck. If you have concerns about the curvature of your neck and spine due to daily and habitual strain, SCPT can help. Call us at 508-832-2628 for more information.