For centuries, parents and grandparents the world over reminded children to stand up straight. They are probably loathed to look around today and notice all the bad postures walking down the street. We have been warned for decades about the dangers to our overall health of sitting too long. Now we can add a new phenomenon wreaking havoc on our bodies – text neck.
We are designed to treat our head almost like another vertebra, keeping it on top of our neck for proper support. That helpful alignment vanishes when we drop our heads forward and stare down at our phone, often for hours each day, putting immense strain on our body.
Adult heads weigh about 12 pounds. As we take the head forward and down, we are increasing the load on our cervical spine. That once 12-pound head is the equivalent of 40 pounds when we bring the head forward 30 degrees and closer to 60 pounds when the angle is 60 degrees.
Damage Caused by Text Neck
It is easy math to see there are many people suffering: 92% of Americans say they own a smart phone and average three to four hours a day on the device. Originally coined text neck, this condition is sometimes referred to as “tech” neck because of the proliferation of tablets and because we use our phones for watching videos, answering emails, conducting online meetings, and more.
That forward head has ramifications beyond disappointing the grandparents. Text neck leads to:
- Strained muscles
- Pinched nerves
- Herniated discs
- Weakened muscles in the neck, upper back, and shoulders
- Inflamed temporomandibular joints (TMJ)
Over time the natural curve of the cervical spine could be eliminated, which can inhibit your ability to move. Muscles in the back of the neck are overstretched while those in front are shortened.
Risks of Bad Posture
Text neck is one type of poor alignment. Bad posture in general has many potential consequences. Neck and back pain are more obvious impacts but there are others, including:
- Reduced lung capacity
- Compressed nerves
- Diminished digestion
- Stressed joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- Increased headaches
- Elevated early-onset arthritis
- Disrupted sleep
Treatment for Text Neck
Our smart phones are not going anywhere, so we need to focus on changing how we use them and seek professional therapeutic help when needed.
Here are some recommendations that you can do to ease the pain and strain:
- Lift the screen to eye level
- Look forward
- Use a chair with a headrest (and keep your head against it)
- Add strength training
- Incorporate stretching routines
- Practice good posture throughout the day
- Avoid prolonged static positions
- Use the right pillow for your sleep position
- Limit the amount of time you use smart devices
Sometimes the at-home remedies cannot quite do the trick. An orthopedic specialist can:
- Assess your posture for alignment issues
- Use diagnostics and imaging to identify root and ancillary causes of your pain
- Design a strength and stretch program and ensure you use proper form
- Utilize interventional treatments like pain-relieving injections
- Perform surgery only after all methods have not relieved the pain
When to Visit an Orthopedic Specialist
When your pain is affecting your mood or quality of life, it is time to consult a spine specialist. Our professionals at Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida are at the forefront of orthopedic medicine and are valuable resources for patients.
Receive compassionate and personalized care from our experienced team. Make your appointment by calling (239) 215-2008 or using our online form.