October 20, 2015
Our tech savvy lifestyle gives us many advantages, but it can also cause new problems. By constantly bending our necks to read and work on our devices,we are putting a strain on our necks and spine that can cause serious lifelong problems.
This is especially prevalent among teenagers, who lean over a table or slump back in a chair texting, gaming, or reading and responding to social media.
How Heavy is Your Head?
It’s the position we’re putting ourselves in and the amount of time we spend there that is compounding the problem. Our head is a heavy object for our neck to support, applying about 10-12 pounds to our neck when held in the proper position.
But when we bend our head forward and down, as we do in reading or typing on our cell phones and laptops, that pressure begins to increase from 27 pounds at a 15 degree angle up to 60 pounds at 60 degrees.
"What is Text Neck"
While we stare at our smartphones—which research says millions of us do for hours every day—this poor posture, dubbed “text neck”, puts strain on your spine and can pull it out of alignment. It’s been likened to carrying an eight year old child around your neck!
Recent research reports that the average smartphone user spends 2-4 hours a day staring at their phones. That adds up to 700 to 1400 hours a year of stress on the cervical spine. And as you consistently stretch the tissue and ligaments, over time it can cause muscle strain, pinched nerves, and herniated discs.
Dr. James Carter, a leading Australian chiropractor and former governor of the Australian Spinal Research Foundation, said the spine can shift by up to 4 cm after repeated head tilts! Untreated, **“text neck” can eventually remove the neck’s natural curve and require surgery.
You Are How You Sit
Try this: sit in a slumped position, resting your chin on your chest and take a deep breath. Then sit up straight in the chair and try it again. Notice the difference. Resting your chin on your chest stretches your spinal cord and brain stem. Slouching affects your respiration, heart rate and blood pressure, as well as reducing your lung capacity by as much as 30 percent. This reduction in oxygenated blood has been linked to headaches, neurological issues, depression, and heart disease.
We may not be willing or able to disconnect from the tech devices in our lives, but we can minimize the negative effects of those devices by being smart ourselves in how we use them.
- Lift your phone to eye level instead of bending your head toward your phone.
- Hold your neck straight and look down with your eyes.
- Sit up straight in your chair and avoid pulling your shoulders forward.
- Put your laptop in a good position so you can hold your head as straight as possible and utilize the keyboard horizontal to your normal elbow position.
- Take frequent breaks, whether on your phone or computer. Stand up and move around every 15 -20 minutes.
- Exercise your neck frequently. Move your head as far to the right as possible, then center, then as far to the left as possible. Place your hand on one side of your head and push your head against it. Then do the same on the other side.
- After reading your phone, stop to evaluate your posture. Pull your shoulders back and head up so you don’t unwittingly stay in a less favorable position.
- Install an app on your phone that will alert you if your neck is the wrong position (For Andriod, “Text Neck Indicator” or “Posture Reminder”; for Iphone, “Watch your Neck”).
Do I Have "Text Neck"?
If you are experiencing frequent headaches, neck or upper back pain, or aching shoulders, you may already be suffering from the effects of "text neck". A chiropractic x-ray can show the current condition of your cervical spine.
Don't Wait and Wonder--Find Out Today!
I have seen a increasing numbers of adults and youth whose tech habits have begun this degenerative process. Fortunately, if detectd in the earlier stages, the effects of "text neck" can be reversed through a series of chiropractic adjustments in conjunction with specific exercises and other therapies as needed to correct the curvature and prevent lifelong difficulties.
If you think that you or someone you care about may be experiencing "text neck", call our office at 417-725-6655 to schedule an examination. With care, you can regain your proper curvature and avoid lifelong problems.
Dr. Hunter Greenwood DC ND MTAA is a chiropractor and naturopathic physician certified in acupuncture and acupressure. He practices at Chiropractor Plus, 1361 West Mount Vernon Street in Nixa, Missouri.
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