If you have a stiff neck and an unexplainable back pain, the reason for your discomfort may literally be on your fingertips. Slouched over with your neck craned towards your phone for long periods of time may lead to a condition called ‘text neck’, a back and neck pain largely owing to the way your neck is bent while you busily peruse your smart phone.
Text Neck has recently been becoming so common, especially for those below 30, that doctors are ready to declare it an epidemic. But why exactly does text neck happen?
A 2014 research published in the National Library of Medicine by physical therapists warned that the extra weight we put on our spine by constantly looking down can lead to wear and tear of the spine, to the point of needing surgery. The human head can weight about a dozen pounds. As we bend our heads forward or backward, we increase the pressure on our spine. At a 15 degree angle, we extend up to 27 pounds of pressure on our spine and at a 45 degree angle, this can go up to 60 pounds. Thus, this has a detrimental effect on our body.
A recent study also showed 79 percent of the sample population, between the ages of 18-44, suffering from text neck, having used their phones for around two hours per day on average. Alarmingly, people are known to use their phones for much longer. Back pain, from a sharp to a nagging one, severe spasms and shoulder pain and tightness, are symptoms of this conditions, although the pain is known to spread down the arms on occasions.
Experts recommend holding your phone, tablet and even laptops at an eye level as much as possible. Minimising the use of such devices is also recommended. For office workers, it is advised that they place their monitor as close to an eye level as possible, so that the neck stays aligned with the shoulders when working. The main idea is to avoid bending the neck as much as possible. As a start, people are encouraged to spend an entire day aware of their own posture and remedy any errors to avoid discomfort and make a habit of maintaining a good stance.
Furthermore, it is advised that smart users take frequent breaks. It also helps if one stretches from time to time, as flexible muscles help minimise the risks. You can also always strive to stand up straight and keep yourself as fit as possible. Of course, if you do feel like you are suffering from text neck, it is best to see a professional first.
The Chicago Tribune recommends a few exercises to help soothe the pain. The Shoulder Blade Squeeze is when you pull your shoulder blades back behind you, aiming to reach your elbows. Go back as far as you can and hold the position for five seconds before relaxing. Repeat 20 to 30 times. Then you can try the Neck Stretch. Sit up tall with your head held high. Pull chin towards your chest, creating a double chin, and hold this position for five seconds. Repeat this 20 to 30 times. Finally, you end with the Chest Stretch. Stand in the middle of a doorway and hold both ends of the door frame. Lean forward until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat 20 to 30 times.
The long term repercussions of Text Neck have not been studied in depth, however the signs are not all that positive. As always, prevention is better than cure and thus, it is best for us to pay heed before its too late.
By Osama Rahman