If you’re reading this, it’s probably on your smart phone. And your chin is probably crammed into your neck, with elbows bent at your sides, and your shoulders hunched forward. This is the posture just about every single person inhabits while dipping into their private smart phone world.
Ah, text neck: the type of physical ailment sweeping the world that could only happen in the 21st century.
“Text neck” was coined by chiropractor Dr. Dean Fishman roughly 10 years ago when a teenage patient came in, listing neck and back pain as her top complaints. When he spotted her now ubiquitous body language while texting, he knew instantly what the issue was. The once-baffling reversal of her spinal column’s curvature — a degeneration typically seen in the middle-aged and older — now made sense.
Younger and younger, people are experiencing neck pain, shoulder pain, and back issues — even wrinkles! — that typically tend to happen only in senior citizens or people with injuries from accidents or trauma. And while tech is playing a role, don’t be quick to point fingers at laptops or desktops.
You can blame your phone for your neck issues.
Looking Down Triples the Force You Put On Your Neck
Looking down to read and write texts triggers a misalignment in the natural curvature in our necks. Just think of how many times in one hour that you look down and press that button to see if anyone has texted or DM’d you. For some, it’s as many as several times an hour.
Repeatedly triggering this misalignment puts more and more of a strain on the muscles that support movement in our backs, necks, and shoulders. When you tilt your head lower, you more than double the weight of your head — 10 to 12 pounds — on those muscles. And that’s just a slight tipping of your head — craning it down the way most of us do, you can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on your neck. That’s multiple bowling ball’s worth of weight tugging on that delicate arrangement of vertebrae.
The thing with smartphones is that we remain transfixed, and stay stuck in that hunched over, neck-to-the-chin position for prolonged periods of time. That’s bad.
Effects of Text Time On Your Body
It’s easy to see how aches and pains are leading to more serious issues. Spine specialists note that our necks naturally curve backwards, but that is being reversed due to all the time we spend gazing at those little screens, hours and hours each day.
That can equate to a whole smorgasbord worth of health problems ranging from headaches and inflammation to permanent arthritic damage.
Are You Displaying Symptoms of “Text Neck”?
You likely have already experienced a few telltale signs without realizing it’s due to spending time on your tablet or phone:
- Tightness in your shoulders and neck might not be due to stress – they are probably stiff from constantly hunching your shoulders.
- Localized pain, such as stabbing or dull aches in a particular area, is typical even in kids as young as eight years old!
- Headaches are common after prolonged texting when the trapezius muscle, a trigger point for headaches, gets tight from strain.
- Muscle spasms in the upper back, shoulders, and neck are signals that your body needs some healing – and a change in behavior.
- Herniated discs can result due to the unnatural, constant pulling on that fragile spinal column.
- Pinched nerves can happen after prolonged periods of keeping your head pulled forward.
Perfect that Poor Posture
Don’t panic yet: there are easy fixes to text neck that you can address in the short term.
- First things first: stop looking down! The next time you read a text, or start swiping through the latest app, raise your phone closer to eye level. It may feel odd at first, but your body will thank you. Think about setting a timer for periodic breaks or downloading apps that set reminders to stop looking down.
- Use two hands and two thumbs to text. It sets your frame up for success and is less of a strain on your whole system compared to yanking your thumb back and forth the keyboard over and over.
- Look up from your phone every so often. Give yourself a break. Remember that there’s a sun in the sky and trees outside and oh, hey! There are people around you, too, willing to interact.
- Stretch your neck: lower your ear your shoulder for a few moments to counter the strain on the constant forward motion, alternating sides.
- Regularly exercise and take yoga. Strengthening your core does wonders to combat the ill effects of text neck. And there’s a reason yoga has been around for ages: it really works in keeping the body and its systems running like a well-oiled machine.
- Seek professional help. You may be past the point of feeling relief from these simple steps. If that’s the case, and your pain is chronic or you need frequent doses of pain medication, it’s time to consult a medical expert. Luckily you won’t be the first case they’ve ever seen, and they’ll have some tried and true methods to help you get back on track.
Benefits of Breaking Up with Your Phone from Time to Time
Disconnecting from technology has both physical and mental benefits.
You’ll breathe better, for one: the Cleveland Clinic notes that sitting in a slumped position restricts your lungs ability to expand – that’s less oxygen that you’re inhaling, which makes your heart pump harder.
It alleviates all that pressure on your posture. An aligned body is a happy body.
You’ll experience a little more peace of mind. Constantly reviewing other people’s lives on social media or escaping into a world that isn’t the one in your immediate surroundings isn’t terribly healthy for your brain or soul. A reprieve in technology helps you engage with loved ones in a more present, immersive way.
So now that you’re done reading this, there’s only one more thing to do.