Technology has become so emergent in our lives that we hardly realize how much we use our smart devices. Truth is, the average daily use is over 3 hours a day and that can mean muscle soreness in the neck, shoulders, and arms.
“Text Neck” is becoming more common as we rely on our phones for communication, gaming, reading books online, getting our news updates, and vetting information. Small wonder that 3 hours a day will give us a pain in the neck with our heads lowered and hunched over. It’s not unusual to see people “text-walking” or worse, driving while texting.
With all the advantages of having a world of information at our fingertips, there is an associated health risk. There are over 4 billion mobile devices in the world so it’s no wonder we have sore necks and shoulders. In fact, it’s becoming a growing epidemic affecting millions of Americans as we become more reliant on our smart devices.
Constant lowering of the neck to look downward puts the spine in an unnatural curve that can cause reduction in the cervical spine, thus creating a “pain in the neck”. That pain can then radiate through the shoulders, creating tension, and even debilitating headaches. Each day of smart phone use intensifies the discomfort, with the arms experiencing weakness or a numbing sensation. Over time, this becomes a challenge to treat.
Consider: The average head weighs about 10 pounds. When tilted 15 degrees, the force of your head on your cervical spine increases twofold. The more severe the tilt, the more weight and that can add as much as 60 pounds of force on your neck. Prolonged tilting downward creates excessive strain causing stress injury. Over a long period of time it may even lead to spinal misalignment, early onset of arthritis, disc compression, or nerve damage.
Here are some good tips for avoiding “text neck”:
- Adjust Your Posture – hold your phone at eye level with ears directly aligned to your shoulders.
- Use Headphones when talking on the phone to avoid tilting your head.
- Switch to a desktop – when reading a novel or a long news article, save it for your desktop where it’s easier to control posture.
- Put it down – don’t react to every ‘notification” that you have a message. Check those messages all at once at a specified time of day. You’ll also find this relieves psychological stress when you’re not a slave to your phone.
- Take a Break – if you have to be on the phone for long periods of time, set your alarm for a stretch break every hour.
- Use Voice Dictation – use your smartphone voice recognition to text or email. This will help you keep your head aligned with your shoulders.
Strengthening and resistance exercises can reinforce the neck and shoulder muscles and offset damage. Try taking recurrent breaks, sustaining good posture, and doing neck stretches to circumvent further damage. Most important, when using a mobile device, place it at eye level to avoid tilting of the neck. Remember … Hold Your Head Up!
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