Do you ever wonder why you have an ongoing ‘ouch’ in your neck, wrist, or arm? HINT: The cause may be what you’re doing up to 58 times a day.
Take a minute to look up from your smartphone, and observe your fellow humans with their heads down, phones lowered, necks curved downward, and thumbs flying. Did YOU have to raise your head up to glance? If you’re sitting in your car waiting for a passenger or hanging out in the waiting room for an appointment, the odds are your answer was yes. We’re enraptured with our communication, and our bodies are loudly communicating back!
Orthopedic surgeons are seeing so many of us with chronic neck, upper back, and shoulder pain that a non-medical diagnosis has been coined relating to the improper use of mobile devices: “text neck,” also commonly referred to as tech neck.
We know the importance of ergonomics, i.e., the proper height for the computer and the right fit- for-our- body chair to prevent body aches from long hours in the office. But what about that ‘thing’ you do almost 58 times every day? You’re checking your smartphone or another device. You know you take a glance at it on occasion, but did you realize it was that often?
Dr. Brian Cole, an orthopedic surgeon, and owner of Englewood Spine Associates, explains for Costco Connection, August 2021, that “the neck is a stalk that holds up the head which weighs 15 lbs. When you stand up straight, the weight of your head falls directly over your neck, exerting 10-12 lbs. of force as it maintains balance.”
But, here’s the problem. When the neck is flexed, demands on the muscles increase, and for every degree of flex forward, the force on the neck increases by 10 lbs. So, Dr. Cole’s big reveal? When the neck is in the texting position, fully flexed forward and looking down, the force is now 60lbs! The supporting muscles become fatigued, and pain ensues, leading to upper-body and neck pain, rounded shoulders, headaches, and reduced mobility.
Dr. Cole suggests: *If you have numbness, tingling, or weakness in the extremities, it may be time to see a doctor. Otherwise, begin by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs combined with acetaminophen to help alleviate pain. Once the pain is relieved, establishing your range of motion is a must:
The best solution to the pain is to prevent it from even starting (or getting worse if it’s too late). For Dr. Cole, the prevention is simple. “The most direct option is to use your arms to lift your device to eye level, which transfers the work from your neck to your shoulder muscles to maintain position.” More suggestions include utilizing armrests or standing platforms to keep your device at eye level and utilizing voice recognition instead of typing. These simple steps can help to relieve stress on your arms, shoulders, and back.
Now that you know about text neck, you can recognize the poor posture in others. But will you see it in yourself? Try a posture self-check. Check your text messages as you look in a mirror… Here’s how to fix what you see.
If you’re still concerned about your posture and how you could be affected by text neck, you can rest assured because – of course – there’s an app for that! Yes, a Text Neck app does actually exist for Android users. It offers immediate real-time feedback about your posture (indicated by a green or red light) and a vibration or beep reminder to tell you when you’ve lapsed back into bad habits.
If you think you’re suffering from text neck, you can find solace in the fact that Dr. Cole sees half of his patients resolve their pain within 2 weeks. If you want to speed up the process, you can go through the aforementioned steps to help relax your muscles and alleviate the pain.
As stated before, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Just being aware of the condition can help you avoid getting text neck. Try not to stare down at your phone for hours at a time. Not only is it bad for your body, but it’s also bad for you personally. Get up and move around and concentrate on the world around you instead of your devices. Go for a walk or do some stretches, and you’ll find yourself feeling better with each passing day.
Check out Healthline for additional prevention methods and rehab exercises.
*This article is not intended to replace medical advice. Always see a doctor for ongoing pain.
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