It is hard to believe that there is a medical term for a condition caused by excessive screen time. The truth is our posture has changed because of our culture and lifestyle. ‘Text neck’ is a condition caused by overuse syndrome, or repetitive stress injury, to the neck. It is caused by holding the head forward and downward for long periods of time. When the head is held in a forward or downward position, an excessive amount of tension is created in the deeper muscles of the neck and over the shoulders. This causes acute and chronic pain in the neck. Chronic headaches are also associated with ‘Text Neck’. People are spending more and more time on handheld devices like smartphones, tablets, electronic books, and iPads.
What causes Text Neck?
When you’re in an upright position, with your ear lobes at the centre of your shoulder, the average head weighs about 4.5-5.5 kgs through your neck muscles and joints. But when you move your head forward by just 2-3cm from that neutral position, your head weight increases by about 6-fold. That’s about 30kg, which is the same weight as the average 8 year old or 6 ten pin bowling balls.
A ‘text neck’ can cause inflammation of your neck ligaments and irritate the nerves. It can also cause curvature in your neck. It can also cause a ‘dowagers hump,’ which is a protruding lump at your neck’s base. It can also alter the bone structure of the vertebrae in your neck.
What Are The Long Term effects?
You can have long-lasting effects, e.g. tension headache, herniated discs, lump in the neck. What happens initially is that it forces the muscles to keep your head up. When the muscles are tight, it increases the pressure on the discs even more, causing them to wear out faster. Your disc herniation may then enlarge or rupture. When the herniated disc pushes on one of your tendons, you may experience weakness, numbness or pain in your arm that may even sometimes require surgery.
Apart from the pain in your neck, your shoulders may also get hurt. Due to the small size of smartphones, many individuals are shoulder to shoulder holding their smartphone in one hand so they can text with the other. Sitting in front of a computer and even incorrect ergonomics can cause you hurt your shoulders. You should stretch your shoulders every now and then to relax and practice back and forth shoulder stretches.
How to avoid Text Neck?
This is an unrealistic request, especially when mobile phones and tablets have become such an integral part of our lives as well as children’s lives.
However, you can take steps to prevent Text Neck, and we recommend taking preventative measures. One of the easiest ways to avoid text neck is to maintain good posture. This means keeping your chest high, shoulders low and chin tucked into your shirt.
Another way to prevent text neck is to lift your phone up to the level that you will when you are looking at someone else’s face. If you are sitting down, keep your phone facing away from you. Your eyes should look down, not up. Take regular breaks and adopt good posture for your whole body. Follow the same principles even when you are working from your home office.
When should you consult an osteopath?
These are just some of the easy ways to prevent Text Neck in our increasingly head-down, tech-focused society. But if you, or your child, are experiencing neck and shoulder pain and think it might be linked to looking at tech, a short-term solution is to engage in activities that improve mobility and flexibility in the neck and body.
Swimming, yoga, and pilates are all great ways to improve mobility and flexibility, but if pain persists, seek Guildford Osteopathy services. Woking Osteopaths will help resolve soreness, enhance movement in the affected area, and address any postural alterations that may have occurred.