Text Neck – The Next Neck Pain Generation
We are experiencing an increase in neck pain from using phones. Years ago, it was holding a wired phone between the neck and shoulder. With the advent of headsets, this was remedied. However, with new wireless phones comes texting and constantly looking down at the phone, resulting in what is now called “text neck”.
Texting can truly be a pain in the neck. As you look forward, the weight of the head is constantly being held by the neck muscles. The further down you look, the more stress the neck has to deal with. Add hours of texting and the neck muscles get very tight; overstretched in some areas and shortened in others. The muscles don’t get the right supply of oxygen and waste products build up. Joints and discs undergo additional stress, pressure and loss of nutritional lubrication, resulting in stresses leading to early degeneration and arthritis, as the inflammation builds.
Having the head forward, down, and just hanging there can lead to headaches from stressed neck structures as well as eye fatigue. So, with this great new form of communication – texting on smart phones, comes a hunched over posture and the aches and pains that go with it. Rounded shoulders hanging forward stretch the muscles and balance is lost between the neck and shoulders, further aggravating the condition.
In addition to text neck, individuals also experience elbow and thumb pain. This is from pressure and inflammation of tendons, leading to the new tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome. I guess we can call this text elbow and text wrist, because most individuals are not aware what is causing the problem.
You can see a patient sitting on a therapy table with a heating pad on their neck. They are supposed to be lying down, but when you check up on them, they are sitting there using their smart phones and texting! Hunched over, head forward and down, tapping away in this iPosture. I’m treating you for neck pain and you are hurting your neck during treatment! Well, from now on a sign on the therapy room door, “No Cell Phones!” Too bad they are texting while walking into the therapy room and not reading the sign!
Text neck posture is easy to see just about anywhere. At a college campus, stores, waiting rooms, adults, kids, teenagers, seniors…. perhaps we are all guilty of this. Want to see it gone wild? Go to a cell phone store! This new form of communication is now ingrained into our culture, and with the benefits of smart phones are impressive, we are going to have to deal with a new generation of musculoskeletal problems due to text neck. It’s the same problem, just a new name and a great increase in frequency and incidence. So, now instead of poor posture, we can give a name to the problem that might help in recognition of it “iPosture”. But I like text neck better, so it is not a new confusing term related to the eyes!
So, now this iPosture results in a pain syndrome called text neck. There is an abundance of scientific literature indicating pain syndromes from computer workers and assembly line workers that look down a lot. Now we are compacting this posture in a more hunched over position, like a turtle, the iPosture. I guess as devices get smaller and smaller, we will have to evolve smaller thumbs. We will hunch over and compact so much, we will turn into diamonds!
It’s not surprising the term text neck originated from a chiropractic patient. Maybe chiropractors are behind this? No, no conspiracy. I’m a chiropractor and I would know. Although, giving out free smart phones might increase business, there’s plenty of reasons for neck pain these days. There has been a gradual increase in ergonomic awareness, including office and home furniture design, however, hand someone a smart phone, and it all goes out the window!
It’s not easy seeing an increase in neck pain in teenagers. Mom brings in her son for treatment. I am reviewing x-rays, showing a reverse in the normal curve of the neck. Moms looks at me and I point to her son sitting there texting on his smart phone! A picture was worth a thousand words. Biomechanics and neuromuscular anatomy is one thing, your kid hunched over his smart phone texting away is another. So, when I say he’s got text neck, Mom understands.
There is a new generation of texters that will suffer from text neck and long term consequences if we don’t do something about it. While I am a somewhat clumsy texter, I see kids texting so fast and so intently, I am amazed! texting has become a way of life.
It’s not going away. I leave my office door open and, after lecturing a patient on the dangers of text neck and the iPosture, they see me sitting at my desk texting, and not very well. Take a break. Look at a distant object to rest the eyes. Get up and stretch. Stretch the neck, upper back and shoulders as well as the hands. Do some strengthening exercises for the neck and shoulders. Try to sit with better posture and have more awareness about it. Keep your chin up! Try to bring your head over your shoulders. Hold the phone at an angle, bringing the phone closer instead of letting the phone drag you out. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, hold for a bit, then relax. Repeat this.
So, we try to educate about ways to make a healthier texter. This needs to be done early and reinforced in creative ways, by parents and educators alike. Texting is obviously not going away, but lets try to help prevent the future generations from suffering the ill effects of iPosture and text neck.