Your smartphone can be a real pain in the neck. Here’s why and what you should do about it.
Chances are you’re reading this while leaning over a table or slumped back in a chair. Your head is tilted forward; your shoulders are curved.If you’re on a mobile device, your arms are bent by your side and your back hunch is even more profound.
The position you’re in is probably causing you pain, whether you’re aware of it yet or not. Don’t worry, physical therapists have a diagnosis for the headaches, neck cricks and achy shoulders. They call it “Text Neck.”
“Text Neck” is not just a texting problem – Text neck is a gaming problem. Text neck is an e-mailing problem and it’s a talking problem.
A doctor who is a physical therapist, originally coined the term in 2008 while examining a 17-year-old patient. The teen came in complaining of headaches and neck pain. As he was trying to explain to the patient’s mother exactly what the problem was, he glanced over and saw her posture.
The teen was sitting in a chair, hunched over her smartphone, texting away. That’s when he knew he was on to something.
The average human head weighs 10 pounds in a neutral position — when your ears are over your shoulders. For every inch you tilt your head forward, the pressure on your spine doubles. So if you’re looking at a smartphone in your lap, your neck is holding up what feels like 20 or 30 pounds.
Sleeping with your smartphone?
All that extra pressure puts a strain on your spine and can pull it out of alignment. It can be compared to bending your finger back all the way and holding it there for an hour. As you stretch the tissue for a long period of time, it gets sore, it gets inflamed.
Staying in what experts call the “forward head posture” can lead to muscle strain, disc herniations and pinched nerves. Over time, it can even flatten or reverse the natural curve of your neck.
As your mother used to say: Be careful or it might stay like that.
Other doctors started seeing patients with head, neck and back pain caused by mobile devices six or seven years ago. Recently “Text Neck” has increased dramatically, especially among her younger patients.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8- to 18-year-olds spend an average of seven and a half hours using “entertainment media” every day.
But it’s not just kids. The average amount of data used on a smartphone tripled from 2010 to 2011, according to Cisco’s Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update. And each tablet generates 3.4 times more traffic than the average smartphone.
Not only does forward head posture cause nerve pain, it can also create metabolic problems.
Try to take a deep breath in a slumped position. Now sit up straight and try again. Experts say slouching can reduce the capacity of your lungs by as much as 30%.
A lack of oxygenated blood flowing through the body can potentially lead to vascular disease. And gastrointestinal problems can be caused by pressure placed on the organs in a bad posture.
So what’s an iPad-cradling, smartphone-texting, laptop-loving guy or gal to do?
First, if you are experiencing pain, visit the doctors at Conyers Family Chiropractic, get a proven plan of recovery and get started on relieving and eliminating the pain.
Next, be aware of your body. Keep your feet flat on the floor, roll your shoulders back and keep your ears directly over them so your head isn’t tilted forward. Use a docking station and wrist guards to support the weight of a mobile device. Get and use a headset.
Most important, chiropractors and physical therapists agree, is taking frequent breaks while using any mobile device or desktop computer. About every 20 minutes, stand up, roll your shoulders and neck or go for a short walk to improve blood flow.