“Don’t slouch! Stand up straight!”
“Don’t carry such a heavy bag!”
“Don’t read in the dark!”
“Don’t sit so close to the television… er… computer screen!”
As if mothers the world over didn’t have enough to nag about, now they can add “text neck” to their list.
Text what? That’s right: text neck. It’s an honest-to-goodness 21st century medical condition physicians and chiropractors are dealing with on a daily basis — so much so that some are calling it an epidemic. According to Spine Health, text neck is “the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long.”
Now, you may correctly be noting that bending your neck to look down does not occur only when texting. Reading, knitting, painting one’s nails and certainly one or two other things all require bending your neck in the exact same way (and all occurred long before the 21st century, I might add).
But don’t fool yourself. When was the last time you pulled out your knitting while waiting in line, sitting at the dinner table, or while you were out for a night on the town? And while you’re working, my goodness! Think about how many times per day you text, tweet, send snaps, check your schedule, check your bank balances, book appointments, send e-mails, leave notifications and reminders for yourself… and play Candy Crush.
Gazing down at a 45- to 60-degree angle has taken over our lives, and it is causing permanent damage to our cervical spines that could lead to lifelong neck pain.
The physiology behind text neck
Your neck comes with a natural curve. Leaning forward over your electronic devices takes your neck out of that natural position. Dropping your head instead of keeping it straight on your shoulders makes things worse. Your head, in its neutral position, weighs close to 12 pounds. The more you tilt it downward toward your phone, the heavier it becomes. The weight increases progressively according to the degree of the angle. At a 60-degree tilt, which is roughly the angle at which we all look down at our phones, your neck is basically cantilevered with a 60-pound weight.
All of this puts stress on your cervical spine and makes you a candidate for subluxation, or shifting your vertebrae out of alignment, which irritates or pinches the nerves emerging from the brain and spinal cord. Keep it up and your cervical spine eventually will begin to degenerate. Enough degeneration, and you may need surgery. In the meantime, you’ll suffer headaches, backaches, dizziness, jaw pain and compromised sleep. Factor in that heavy purse you schlep on one shoulder and those six-inch heels you trot around in, and you’ve got a recipe for head-to-foot disaster, none of which is conducive to looking, sounding or feeling good on cam. It’s bad for your health and bad for your business.
“[Text neck] is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. And Hansraj knows — his research on text neck has appeared in Surgical Technology International. “Just look around you,” he added. “Everyone has their heads down.”
Everyone. Everyone is looking down at their phones. All the time.
Tips to combat text neck
So what can you do? Some basic yet helpful tips for safe and healthy texting, typing and general device-saturated living include:
- Maintain good posture while standing, sitting, walking and texting.
- Gently and periodically stretch your neck and move your head around when working.
- Take frequent breaks from your electronic devices.
- Keep screens at eye level to avoid dropping your head.
- Look at screens by moving your eyes (versus directing your entire skull towards your devices).
If you have an Android device, you can install the HeadUp app, which offers real-time feedback about whether you are standing in the correct posture. The app tracks your slouching and standing patterns, and there’s an optional vibration or beep alert for when you lapse into bad habits. Annoying! And useful.
If the idea of using an app to combat text neck seems a little counterintuitive, you can always to what the yogis do: mountain pose.
Jenna Andre is a total gearhead who also appreciates the simpler things in life. Email her at Jenna.Andre@ynotcam.com.
Let Adriene show you how to do a perfect mountain pose (Tadasana) below: