Sometimes it seems that new technology always comes with new problems. The mobile phone and other handheld devices have brought a host of repetitive use and strain injuries with them. Chief among these is text neck, a painful condition caused by flexing your neck at a downward angle for long periods of times.
The average adult’s head weighs about 4.5 kg. Your spine has to not only bear that weight, but keep your body upright, flex, extend, twist and balance. When you lean your head forward, gravity increases the weight put on your spine by many times. The more you angle your neck, the heavier your head becomes. This puts extreme strain on your vertebrae, ligaments, and muscles of your neck, shoulders, and back. Maintaining this position for hours, several times a day, can have serious consequences.
Of course, text neck isn’t caused solely by mobile phones or texting. Keeping your neck flexed for any reason, while siting or standing, is unhealthy for your spine. Kids are also particularly vulnerable. They tend to spend a lot of time using handheld devices to play games or communicate with their friends. Since children and adolescents don’t yet have fully mature skeletons, the potential for damage in young people is even greater.
The first signs of text neck are, unsurprisingly, pain in the neck and shoulders. This can quickly progress to a headache, usually wrapping around the back of the skull and radiating to the temples and forehead. With text neck, the cervical, or neck, vertebrae are being irritated along with the spinal nerves in that area. Since the nerves of the cervical region serve the arms, you may also experience pain, tingling, or numbness in your shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers.
Over time, text neck can cause even more serious problems, like disc herniation. Having text neck also puts you at higher risk of developing vertebral compression fractures and scoliosis in the future.
Fortunately, there are some excellent ways to prevent text neck. The first and foremost is to take regular breaks from looking downward. The human neck isn’t designed to stay angled downwards for long periods of time.
Secondly, there are phone apps available that will monitor the angle of your phone, making sure it is kept straight or at a shallow angle. This encourages you to keep your device at eye level, looking at it straight on. This is invaluable, since it keeps your head in a natural, neutral position. If you can’t use such an app on your device, purchase a holder that will hold it at the correct height.
Finally, see your chiropractor for regular adjustments and at the first sign of neck pain or other trouble. They will be able to offer safe treatments to help correct any unnatural neck curve, without the use of drugs or surgery. This may include gentle traction, manual adjustments, and soft tissue release. Over time, they’ll be able to reduce your pain, restore mobility, and get you feeling great again.