Throughout the history of medicine, there are numerous things that can cause injury or discomfort to the neck. It is a modern phenomenon that over-texting on your cell phone can be added to that list. Dr. Fischer in New York City has encountered an increasing number of patients with complaints related to text neck in recent years.
What is text neck?
Just as you may have guessed, text neck is a result of spending too much time looking down at your mobile device such as a phone or tablet. Research varies in the exact numbers, but some experts say mobile device users spend an average of more than four hours a day looking down at devices. If you add up each day into weeks, months and years, it’s easy to see how holding your neck in that position so much might have some negative effects on your body.
What does it do to your body?
Placing your body in a posture of staring down at your cell phone increases stress on your neck and can even cause permanent damage. In order to look at your screen, you bend your head forward. This position opposes the natural backward curve of your neck. X-rays even show that the cervical spine, or neck, can become straighter than it should be. Your neck is designed to easily hold the weight of your head, similar to that of a bowling ball, directly over your shoulders and upper back. However, when you bend your head into a forward posture, the amount of strain and stress on the neck, shoulders and back increases.
What are the symptoms?
You may be surprised by the number of symptoms that can be linked to text neck:
- Upper back pain that may be nagging, chronic pain or can be sharp, severe pain
- Neck pain or soreness
- Muscle spasms
- Tension in the shoulders
- Tension or migraine headaches
- Pinched nerves or herniated discs over time
- Poor posture, which can lead to other symptoms
What are the remedies?
The ideal solution is to improve the posture of your upper body. This means striving to maintain a straight line along the side of your body from the opening of your ear down to the middle of your shoulder, as opposed to holding your head where the ear opening is forward of the vertical line to your shoulder. Try to use your eyes to look at your phone instead of bending your neck. Stretching your neck muscles by gently moving your head forwards and backwards and right and left several times can also be helpful. The most obvious solution is to spend less time using handheld devices and to take breaks to stand or walk around and move your neck, shoulders and back. If you’d like further advice, schedule an appointment with Dr. Fischer to learn more.