Text Neck-A New Health Disaster
We live in a connected world through our technology, but unfortunately there’s a significant negative impact technology can have on our health. With the rise in use of cell phones, there has been a corresponding rise in neck pain and related symptoms (headaches, shoulder pain, arm pain, numbness and tingling in the hands). This new health condition is being called “text neck.”
Our neck (cervical spine) should naturally have a C-shape when viewed from the side, which allows our joints and discs to be in proper alignment, as well as our muscles and spinal cord to be relaxed. When we look down at our cell phones, the spine loses this natural c-curvature, putting added stress and load on the joints and soft tissues. Prolonged head flexion when using our technology and cells phones can create permanent changes in the neck and soft tissues and lead to a host of health issues, such as neck pain, headaches, fatigue, numbness and tingling in the arms and hands, upper back pain, etc. Studies have even found that loss of neck curvature can create lower back pain. (Kai Y, et al. Traumatic thoracic outlet syndrome. Orthop Traumatol 1998;47: 1169-1171)
Another recent study shows that 79% of our population between ages 18 and 44 have their cell phones on them almost all the time. (https://www.nu.nl/files/IDC-Facebook%20Always%20Connected%20%281%29.pdf). That is a large number of people literally addicted to their cell phones. Looking down at our cell phones is a repetitive use injury that takes time. Now it only takes ten minutes stuck in one position to start slowly changing the ligaments of your spine. Your ligaments are the ‘glue’ that keeps your spine intact and when these become weak and stretched out over time, this is when we start to see the loss of neck curvature. When we lose our neck curve, added stress to the joints occur and the degenerative process begins. This has the potential to lead to a life of arthritis and degenerative disc disease; that is, if left that way.
There are many professions and types of people that are more susceptible to ‘text neck.’ Many people in certain professions spend most of their work day stuck in a head flexed position. This would include hairdressers, estheticians, beauticians, dental assistants and hygienists, mechanics and welders. Teenagers, as well as toddlers and young children, are also very susceptible to having ‘text neck’ due to the amount of screen time these kids are permitted.
The first thing that we can do to avoid text neck is being aware of our postures throughout the day and teaching ourselves (and our children) to use better posture. We need to avoid looking down at our screens and phones and bringing them to the level of our eyes instead. This is easily done with our phones buy bringing our arms up to the level of our eyes and our computer screens up with risers. Taking breaks from our technology and/or avoiding using our technology for long periods of time will also help.
Another time that we are stuck in a head flexed position without our technology is when we are sleeping. Many people like to lie on their sides while sleeping, curled up in a ball; while this may be comfortable, it is essentially doing the exact same thing as staring down at your phone while being awake. Avoid sleeping in a ball by extending your back and keeping your chin away from your chest while sleeping.
Now it is extremely hard to reverse a neck curve that has lost its natural c-shape with many well-known therapies such as physical therapy or regular chiropractic. There is a specific technique in the chiropractic profession, known as chiropractic biophysics that has repeatedly shown great results at correcting the structure of the neck curve. If you think that this is something that you or your kids may be suffering with or be the cause of your symptoms, please call us for a free consult and examination.