Your Electronics really are a Pain in the Neck!

Text Neck Image Nov. 2015We love our phones. It’s a bit of an epidemic how connected and involved we are with our
electronic devices. It is somewhat amazing how this relatively new technology has changed so many aspects of our daily lives. The downside of always being connected and involved is that the use of the technology is also causing bodily changes.

If you haven’t already heard, there is a condition called ‘text neck’. This digital age malady is the result of leaning over to read and text on your cellphone and the changes it causes in posture. We all do it. The problem is that this bad posture puts excessive pressure on the upper spine, up to 60 lb. of extra pressure, according to research performed by Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine and author of Keys to an Amazing Life: Secrets of the Cervical Spine.

Text neck happens because of the hours that people spend looking at their phones. It could lead to early wear and tear on the spine which could then lead to degenerative disk disease, bone spurs causing pinched nerves, and intense pain. For some conditions, surgery may be the only option to correct the damage. Poor posture has also been linked to other issues such as reduced lung capacity, headaches, neurological disorders, heart disease, and depression.

The experts offer some suggestions to combat the effects of text neck on the spine, but it takes a conscious effort to stop from bending the head each time the phone beeps. To avoid pain, Dr. Hansraj suggests that users look at their phones with a ‘neutral spine’ using their eyes to look downward and not the heads. Changing the angle of the head significantly reduces the weight placed on the spine. A 15-deg angle produces about 27 lb. of weight, a 30-deg angle adds 40 lb., a 45-deg angle is 49 lb., and a 60-deg angle is 60 lb. of weight on the spine.

Exercising you head by moving it from left to right several times, rolling shoulders up and down, and stretching the neck helps relax neck muscles and shoulders preventing the strain on the spine. Take a walk (without the phone!) so that you are not stuck in one position for too long.

It’s a reality that we all need to be aware of and make a conscientious effort to use our phones and tablets differently to avoid future spinal problems. This is especially true of children and teens who are using devices from a very early age. Improving posture may prevent spinal problems and future spine care.

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Resources:

[1] http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/11/20/365473750/keep-your-head-up-text-neck-can-take-a-toll-on-the-spine

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3274835/Shocking-X-rays-teenagers-text-neck.html

[3] http://www.orthospinenews.com/text-neck-what-your-phone-is-doing-to-your-spine/

[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/20/text-neck-is-becoming-an-epidemic-and-could-wreck-your-spine/