It’s not unusual for people these days to have smartphones, tablets, gaming devices and other small electronics.
All of these devices have something in common. Namely, people tend to bend their heads forward and hunch their shoulders while using them.
This has led to a painful and increasingly common health problem known as “text neck.” Sometimes also referred to as “tech neck,” this condition can be quite debilitating, especially if you do not take steps to correct the problem.
Is having text neck inevitable in today’s day and age? It doesn’t have to be. There are numerous strategies that you can use to protect yourself and your family against this common problem.
If you are already experiencing the pain, discomfort and limited mobility that are associated with text neck, then it is time to contact Integrative Physical Health. Our knowledgeable doctors and staff can help you to feel less pain while still using the devices that you love.
What Exactly Is Text Neck?
Typically, this condition is described as an overuse syndrome or a repetitive stress injury. It is caused by significant and continuing use of electronic devices like smartphones.
In general, when people use these devices, they bend their heads downward and don’t move them. This puts a great deal of strain on the neck.
The average head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds. In the neck, the ligaments, tendons and muscles are all designed to support that weight in a neutral position, that is, perfectly balanced on top of the cervical spine.
However, when people text using a cell phone, they are prone to bending their head forward at an angle of between 45 and 60 degrees. This places approximately 50 and 60 pounds of pressure on the neck, and this body part just isn’t designed to handle that kind of prolonged stress.
Symptoms of Text Neck
You may be experiencing text neck if you are bothered by these symptoms:
-A mild ache in the neck
-Achiness in the upper back
-Sharp pain in the neck
It is recommended that these symptoms be treated promptly so that they do not worsen. Usually, a few different treatments are advisable.
Perhaps the most critical treatment is to limit the time that you spend texting or doing other things with your phone. It also is crucial to use better posture, which includes things like holding the phone up at about eye level so that you do not have to look down.
Additionally, it may be a good idea to routinely perform some stretches that address tightness in the upper back, chest and neck.
If you decide to try to ignore the pain, then it is likely to get worse. This may mean that you have difficulty moving your neck at all, and the pain can become intense.
It also is possible that people who have degenerative conditions like cervical degenerative disc disease may worsen their condition by foregoing treatment for text neck.
Why Cell Phones and Tablets Are Major Problems
Screen time is ubiquitous in the 21st century, but doing things like watching television or typing on a computer are less likely to lead to text neck.
This is because cell phones and tablets tend to be placed or held flat. Accordingly, the screen’s angle is more severe than that of a laptop, and the neck’s angle must be correspondingly severe.
Doctors also believe that texting itself is more of a problem because it requires both hands. This may cause the user to bend the head forward even more and hunch their shoulders even further.
Treating Text Neck
Usually, a combination of treatments is prescribed to correct this condition. These include adopting better posture while using mobile devices and regularly performing exercises to strengthen and increase flexibility in the neck.
Posture Improvements for Alleviating Text Neck
Use these posture guidelines to minimize your chances of developing text neck:
-Lift the phone up to around eye level so that there is no need to bend the head forward
-Sit or stand up straight with the shoulders pulled back and the chin slightly tucked
-Periodically arch your back and neck to ease the strain of looking at an electronic device
-Set an alarm or use an app to remind you to take frequent breaks
In addition to using these posture tips, try to add a little more exercise into your weekly routine. Exercise will make the back and neck more flexible and stronger, which means that it will be better able to withstand the strain of occasionally looking down.
Stretches and Exercises for Alleviating Text Neck
Anyone who spends a great deal of time bending over a cell phone or tablet causes muscle imbalances. Typically, this means that the muscles at the back of the neck shorten while the muscles in the front of the neck become elongated.
Moreover, the chest muscles shorten as the upper back muscles become elongated.
These muscle imbalances need to be reversed to help reduce pain in the neck. A doctor or physical therapist can prescribe a series of exercises that will address your unique needs. These exercises will be performed at the doctor’s office until the patient is routinely performing them in a safe manner that will be most effective for alleviating their condition.
Then, it is critical for the patient to perform those exercises at home. Do them at least as often as the doctor recommends. Over time, you will begin to feel far fewer symptoms.
Stretch for Success
While you are using your smartphone or tablet, be certain to take frequent breaks. Roll your neck and shoulders gently to relieve any tightness or tension. It also may be wise to practice a little bit of deeper stretching throughout the day.
As an example, you might try the standing forward fold stretch. Perform it with your feet about hip-width apart. Then, bend your knees, exhaling as you bend forward at the hips. Make certain to keep the front of your torso long.
Next, bend your elbows, and hold each elbow with the opposite hand. Allow the top of your head to hang, making certain to press your heels into the floor as your sitting bones lift toward the ceiling.
Drop and relax your head and neck, pulling your shoulders away from your ears. Straighten your legs until your hamstring muscles get a nice stretch. Try to engage your quads to ensure a better release of the hamstrings.
If you can do so with straight knees and a long torso, place your fingertips or palms on the floor.
Breathe in and out, slowly and deeply, releasing further into the stretch as you exhale. Let your head hang and hold the pose for at least 30 seconds.
Limit Your Time
It may not be possible to completely stop texting or using other handheld devices. Still, you can make choices that will limit how much time you spend using these devices.
For instance, you might commit to checking and responding to text messages only at two or three designated times each day rather than responding to each text as it comes in.
It also makes a great deal of sense to set a timer when you need to use your phone for a more extended period. The timer will remind you to take periodic breaks to stretch and move around.
Remember that these tips are not only or you. They are just as critical for your children and teens, who also are susceptible to painful cases of text neck. Rather than letting kids play with or use these devices on an unlimited basis, institute strict time limits, and make sure that their usage is balanced with plenty of physical activity.
Alleviate Text Neck with Integrative Physical Health
Are you suffering from neck pain? If so, then there are things that you can do to make yourself feel better.
Try to spend less time using your smartphone, and take care to use good posture while doing so. It’s wise to stretch frequently and exercise regularly to ensure that your neck and spine can withstand the strain of using a mobile device.
Contact Integrative Physical Health to schedule an appointment if you’re bothered by text neck. We’ll help you to discover stretches and other exercises that will have you feeling better in no time.