Imagine for a minute you walk into a restaurant that just a few years ago was bustling with conversation between friends, families, and couples. Now that same restaurant is very quiet, despite having those very same people as patrons. The big difference is the ubiquitous smartphone, and that very silence would be deafening if you could hear the muscles, ligaments, and nerves screaming out under the stress of looking down at these devices.
While this technology works to make our lives more convenient, efficient and allegedly more connected, you can do some serious long term damage from looking down for long periods of time. It starts as a pull in the upper neck, progressing to a strained feeling in your upper and middle back, with headaches often also developing. This condition is one of many that has come about from the advent of these interactive devices and is called: “Text Neck.”
Text neck is the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long.
Of course, this posture of bending your neck to look down does not occur only when texting. For years, we've all looked down to read. The problem with texting is that it adds one more activity that causes us to look down—and people tend to do it for much longer periods. It is especially concerning because young, growing children could possibly cause permanent damage to their cervical spines that could lead to lifelong neck pain.
Text neck most commonly causes neck pain and soreness. Additionally, looking down at your cell phone too much each day can lead to:
Upper back pain ranging from a chronic, nagging pain to sharp, severe upper back muscle spasms.
Shoulder pain and tightness, possibly resulting in painful shoulder muscle spasm.
If a cervical nerve becomes pinched, pain and possibly neurological symptoms can radiate down your arm and into your hand.
Some studies suggest text neck may possibly lead to chronic problems due to early onset of arthritis in the neck.
How is text neck treated?
While getting your neck checked and adjusted is important, prevention is key when addressing text neck. It does you no good to get adjusted and then assume the posture that strained the muscles and ligaments of your neck and put you out of alignment in the first place.
Here are several pieces of advice for preventing the development or advancement of text neck:
Hold your cell phone at eye level as much as possible.
The same holds true for all screens—laptops and tablets should also be positioned so the screen is at eye level and you don't have to bend your head forward or look down to view it.
Take frequent breaks from your phone and laptop throughout the day. For example, set a timer or alarm that reminds you to get up and walk around every 20 to 30 minutes.
If you work in an office, make sure your screen is set up so that when you look at it you are looking forward, with your head positioned squarely in line with your shoulders and spine.
The bottom line is to avoid looking down with your head bent forward for extended periods throughout the day. Spend a whole day being mindful of your posture—is your head bent forward when you drive? When you watch TV? Any prolonged period when your head is looking down is a time when you are putting excessive strain on your neck.