In the age of the smartphone, a new medical condition is emerging called “text neck.” According to a study by the company Nielsen, the average adult spends one hour on their smart phone each day, a number that more than doubles for high school age students. Regardless of the effect on your mind, your texting and smartphone usage can injure your neck for life.
The average human head weighs between 12-14 pounds. If you are looking straight forward and standing with good posture, this is the weight that your neck is supporting. As soon as you start to angle your head down, your head actually is putting more strain and weight onto your spine. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds according to Dr. Ken Hansraj M.D.
There is no surprise that this sort of weight put onto the spine can lead to degeneration, early onset spine problems and even surgery. “Text neck” could be thought of as an epidemic because of how widely used smart phones are. This concept is similar to working in cubicles and your computer screen causing you to angle your head, except smartphones are with you everywhere, causing this problem to be more common.
Most people don’t think about their posture while they are texting or browsing Facebook on their phones. Doctor Thomas R. Whisenhunt Jr. MD/PHD with the Neuro Spine Institute spoke on the matter, “As you pull (your neck) forward and look down, the muscles that connect at the back of the head to the shoulders down below the shoulder blades in a trapezoid type shape are really trying to work hard to hold that weight up.” This shows that not only is your spine working extra hard, but you could also be causing aches and pain in your shoulders and neck.
Tom DiAngelis, president of the American Physical Therapy Association‘s Private Practice Section, told CNN last year the effect is similar to bending a finger all the way back and holding it there for about an hour. This can lead to muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated disks and can ruin the neck’s natural curve.
To put this into perspective for you, leaning your head down for two hours per day will lead to over 700 hours a year you have spent with 60 pounds of weight supported by your spine. High school students are amongst the worst in cell phone usage and could be in the upwards of 3,000 hours a year because of constant smartphone usage. For younger children, this can pose a huge problem. The younger kids that are using smartphones, the younger kids may need to be seen for spinal care.
It’s important to focus on your posture while you are using your smartphone or other technology devices. Try to move your eyes downward towards the screen instead of moving your entire neck. Limit your time on your phone to a few minutes and try to hold it out in front of you so that you aren’t putting so much pressure onto your spine. Keep your spine moving, move your head from side to side and stretch it slowly up and down, this will help lessen pain.
Text neck sounds silly, but there are growing cases of young adults being treated for neck and spine pain because of their posture while using technological devices. Is your neck already in pain because of your habits? Call OSR and let us help you. We can give you recommendations on how to change your habits with technology in order to live a healthier lifestyle. OSR can also help relieve the pain of text neck through our integrated care system here in Kailua. Contact us here for more info.