Did you know that when you text, the equivalent of four adult-sized bowling balls or six bags of groceries is bearing down on your neck? It’s probably hard to believe, but according to Dr. Kenneth Hansraj and his diagram published in the journal Surgical Technology International, that is the amount of force exerted on a human head that’s positioned at an angle for prolonged periods.
“As the head tilts forward the forces seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees,” writes Hansraj writes in his study. The posture smartphone users have as they look down at their phone stresses the neck and causes significant wear and tear that could lead to permanent damage.
“Text neck” isn’t new – the term was coined back in 2008 by Florida-based chiropractor Dean Fishman during a physical examination of a 17-year old patient, who was complaining of acute headaches and neck pain. Upon seeing the X-rays, Dr. Fishman concluded that the normal curvature of the teen’s neck had been reversed due to the incorrect posture adopted during smartphone use.
Physical therapists and chiropractors have been warning Americans for years of the health risks of texting, but as mobile use becomes more prevalent, the “text neck” threatens to become an epidemic, especially among teenagers. As you look around in a coffee shop or a college campus, it’s impossible not to notice that everyone is staring at their devices in what experts refer to as the “forward head posture,” with the chin dropped on to the chest and shoulders drooping. According to some estimates, for every inch a person tilts the head forward, the pressure on the spine increases twofold. In the long term, staying in this position can cause the spine to be pulled out of alignment, eventually leading to muscle strain, pinched nerves, disc herniation, and possibly surgery.
Can “Text Neck” Be Reversed?
To save the smartphone-loving crowd from severe headaches and neck pain, experts have the following recommendations:
– Be aware of your posture. If you have to look down at your device, try to do so without tilting your head or use a headset to ease the pressure on your spine. At times when you’re not using your phone, correct your posture by putting your hands back, so that your shoulders are brought back, your ears are over your shoulders and the shoulders over the hips.
– Download “Text Neck Indicator.” To remind smartphone users to avoid tilting their head forward, dr. Fishman launched a mobile app that works by shining a green light when the device is held as a safe angle and a red light when the risk for text neck increases. Vibrations can be added as extra warnings.
– Stay active. To avoid muscles in your neck to become sore and painful, move your head from left to right and touch the ear to the shoulder on each side. Repeat this motion for several times during the day. You can also increase the strength of your ligaments by placing the hands on your head to provide resistance as you push your head forward and back.
– Have a massage. Massage therapy is a safe and noninvasive procedure for relieving muscle tension and stress and putting the body on the path to fast recovery. When provided by a trained chiropractor, the hands-on manipulation of the muscles and soft tissues has significant benefits for the circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems.
Although text neck is a serious risk threatening our health, technology lovers need not fret. They can continue to enjoy their smartphones as long as they acknowledge and correct their posture while using them. Chiropractic therapies can also go a long way in preventing premature wear and tear of the spine in users who’re already experiencing pain symptoms.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.