Look around next time you are at a local coffee shop or doctor’s office – chances are you will see many people immersed in their cell phone, tablet, or another wireless device. Over the years, we have become a society reliant on technology and a host of modern devices. While we certainly enjoy how technology and these handheld devices keep us connected and enrich our lives through endless information, we are now at risk of serious health problems from text neck.
Text neck is one of the biggest global health concerns we have right now. It is affecting both men and women, young and old, of all different backgrounds and walks of life. Contrary to popular belief it isn’t just millennials who are suffering from text neck. As you may have guessed, text neck refers to the type of neck pain and damage that occurs from looking down at your cell phone or other device too frequently and for long periods of time. This type of repetitive behavior can cause serious damage that will impact you for the rest of your life if left untreated.
What Causes Text Neck?
Text neck has become increasingly common in recent years. We frequently see patients who complain of severe upper back and neck pain, seemingly out of nowhere. However, this type of pain does not just appear. In most cases, it is a direct result of certain lifestyle habits, such as texting or looking down at your phone all day long.
But what, exactly, is the root cause of text neck?
When you are sitting in an upright, the weight of the head evenly distributes about 10-12 lbs of force to the neck muscles and upper back. When the head is not in this upright, neutral position, it increases the weight of the head by a substantial amount. Science estimates that six times as much force can occur as a result of moving the head out of this safe, aligned position, leading to what we call “the 40-pound head.” That is a lot of weight and just one of the reasons why text neck is causing people so many issues.
Over time, if you continue to look down at your wireless device, it can cause permanent damage to the cervical spine and neck. This is especially true for growing children, who are among the largest group of people affected by text neck.
Long-Term Problems Linked to Text Neck
Text neck is a serious concern for all of us, but the long-term impact on teenagers is particularly alarming. Not only do teenagers text and use their phones more frequently than any other age group, but their spines are still developing. We’re seeing an increase in the number of teenagers with poor posture and complaining of neck pain. Other issues that could arise as a result of untreated text neck include:
- Spinal degeneration
- Disc herniation
- Spinal misalignment
- Early arthritis
- Disc compression
- Nerve or muscle damage
- Gastrointestinal issues
Degenerative disc disease and other common disc problems can wreak havoc on your life and quality of living. While many factors lead to disc problems, preventing text neck is one thing you do have control over.
Text Neck Prevention Tips
It’s not realistic to think we can completely separate ourselves from our phones and other wireless devices, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do to prevent text neck from settling in:
- Keep your cell phone, laptop, tablet, and all other wireless devices at eye level
- Take frequent breaks from your phone and laptop
- If you work at a desk, make sure your screen is set up at eye level so that your head is positioned neutrally between your shoulders
- Avoid looking down at your screen with your head bent forward for long periods of time
If you’re in pain, don’t suffer in silence. Physical therapy and a customized rehabilitation program can help correct the damage. Practicing self-care and making lifestyle changes that support your body as a whole is your best chance at finding relief. Don’t let text neck leave you in pain and discomfort – be aware and consider the above prevention tips before it’s too late.