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How Texting Can Cause Chronic Neck and Back Pain – And What You Can Do About It

How Texting Can Cause Chronic Neck and Back Pain – And What You Can Do About It

Text neck, virtually unheard of 30 years ago, is a growing condition caused by constantly looking down at our phones to text, play games, watch videos, and di other activities. It targets both young and old - and you, yourself, probably have it, too.

What Is Text Neck?

As our phones get smarter with more and more apps that give us convenience and entertainment, it has become harder for us to turn away from our phones. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, phones introduced the novelty of texting, which allowed sending and receiving short messages in a matter of seconds. Now, our phones are capable of doing the job of many different devices – social media, games, navigation, photos and videos, banking, Internet – what can it not do?

Evidence shows that constantly looking down at our phones compromises our posture and takes its toll on our neck and back, resulting in chronic neck and back pain, which, when not addressed in the early stages, may require surgery. Physiopedia, an online resource dedicated to physiotherapy and physical therapy, credits the term “text neck” to US chiropractor Dr. DL Fishman “to describe repeated stress injury and pain in the neck resulting from excessive watching or texting on hand held devices over a sustained period of time”.

Physiopedia further explains that constantly flexing the head forward and downward results in a staggering amount of stress on the spine. Phone use results in a neck tilt of degrees varying from 0 to 60, translating to 10 to 60 pounds of force on the neck and spine. That is similar to a long, daily episode of weightlifting gone horribly, horribly wrong – yikes!

How Can I Tell If I Have Text Neck?

If you own a phone, you’re a likely candidate for text neck. According to Inline Chiropractic, a chiropractor in Fargo, millions of people are affected by text neck. About 70% of the world’s population uses cell phones, with an average minimum usage of 2.7 hours per day.

If you’re worried that you might have text neck, here are some symptoms you have to watch out for:

  • Stiff neck - characterized by soreness and difficulty in moving

  • Pain - ranges from dull aches to sharp, stabbing pain

  • Radiating pain – pain that spreads out the shoulders and arms

  • Muscular weakness – felt around the shoulder area

  • Headache – tightness in the muscles on the base of the neck often leads to headache

If aggravated, symptoms progress to more serious problems such as:

  • Kyphosis – characterized by a stooped forward posture, often called “humpback”

  • Herniated disc – compression of discs due to deterioration, leading to spinal degeneration

  • Arthritis – a condition formerly related to age but now manifests as early as childhood

  • Loss of lung capacity of up to 30% - characterized by shortness of breath which can lead to heart ailments

  • Abnormality in the gastrointestinal system – characterized by abnormal bowel movement

I Think I Have Text Neck – What Should I Do?

Your course of action will largely depend on the severity of your text neck. To properly diagnose text neck, it is highly suggested to seek professional help. Surgery may be required in worst text neck cases.

For acute cases, NBC News recommends 4 simple exercises to counteract the effects of text neck:

  1. Pigeon Neck: This exercise releases tension from the neck muscles down to the spine by aligning the head and the torso. Do the pigeon neck by pulling your head back so that it sits right between your shoulders, just as the bird would do – it might look funny, but it works.

  2. Nod: Before doing this exercise, it is important to be seated upright, with your head aligned with your torso. Start with a gentle nod, hold the nodding position for 10 seconds, and then gradually release.

  3. Chest Opening: This exercise can be done either seated or standing with a good upright posture. Start by clasping your hands behind your head, open the elbows, and contract the shoulder blades back. You should feel your chest opening up. Then, gradually bring your head and shoulders backward. You should feel an arch in the upper middle back. Hold this position for 10-20 seconds, and then gradually release.

  4. Spinal Decompression: With your feet out at a 45 degree angle, sit on the edge of a chair, your knees about 6-8 inches apart. Relax your arms by your sides with your palms facing forward. Pull your chin back so that the head relaxes right between your shoulders. Inhale and exhale deeply 10 times.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Correct your texting posture by raising your arms and holding your phone directly at eye level and avoid prolonged use of your mobile phone. Remember, as with any condition, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.