Times are changing and technology continues to move forward at an incredible pace. One generation that is definitely not immune from the rapid changes are kids. As technology allows us to do more tasks or seek more entertainment options on smaller equipment, our bodies often pay the price. One problem that is becoming more and more prevalent is neck strain from the overuse of these mobile devices, or “text neck.”
Text neck is caused by poor posture when using a mobile device. Think about it - when you have a phone or tablet in your hand, it’s all too common to become hunched over with your head drooping forward and your shoulders rounded. Adolescents and teens are especially at risk. Case in point - people spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over reading and texting on their smartphones and devices. Cumulatively this is 700 to 1,400 hours a year of excess stresses seen about the cervical spine. However, studies find that the average high school student could spend 5,000 more hours hunched over this way. These stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and a whole host of problems.
The human head weighs about 10-12 pounds. As the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the spine begins to increase. 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. That’s 60 pounds of weight stress on muscles and nerves that are meant to handle 10-12 pounds of stress, and that much load can do a lot of damage over time.
To put the strain of text neck in perspective, it’s like carrying an 8-year-old around your neck for four hours a day. Dr. James Carter, a chiropractor in Australia has also found that:
- Looking at your phone repeatedly can cause the spine to shift by 4 centimeters.
- Resting your chin on your chest to look at your phone stretches the spinal cord and brain stem, which can affect respiration, heart rate and blood pressure.
- The effect on the emotional state of a person because of too much gadget use may be because the “happy hormones,” such as endorphins and serotonin, are not released, thus making people feel anxious when they wake up in the morning.
- Frequent texting also leads to a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to obesity, heart conditions, and type 2 diabetes.
While the best way to avoid text neck is to limit the use of your mobile, there are also things you can do to minimize risk. The American Chiropractic Association recommends that you:
- Sit up straight with your chest out and your shoulders back.
- Bring your arms up in front of your eyes so that you don’t need to look down to see the screen.
- Tuck your chin into your chest to look down rather than dropping your head forward.
- If you must use your mobile device for lengthy typing, invest in an external keyboard.
- Rest your forearms on a pillow while typing to help minimize neck tension.
- Avoid using PDAs while in bright sunlight. Straining to see the screen leads to jutting the chin forward, shifting work from the spine to the muscles that hold up the head.
At Carlson Chiropractic Center, we are committed to helping each of our patients find their way to better health – which includes helping with text neck. Put your text neck worries to rest and give us a call! From now until 10/31/15 children 17 and under can be checked (consult, exam and X-rays, if necessary) for text neck for $10.31!