Last year 1.91 trillion text messages were sent. Also, according to the Tech research firm, IDC, 79% of 18-44 year olds have their smart phones with them 22 hours of the day. What do these mind boggling stats lead to? Back and neck pain. While back pain is quickly, rightfully so, attributed to stress, inadequate and/or improper stretching, you may play a larger role in mediating back pain than you realize.
Don’t agree? Texting is synonymous with a hunched over posture, so much so that physical therapist, Dr. Dean Fishman coined the term, “text neck” to describe the repetitive stress injury caused by one’s head hung forward, looking down at phone for long periods of time. Excessive straining of the neck can lead to headaches, achy shoulders and back pain that comes with poor posture while texting. Perhaps, “text neck” should be rephrased to “gaming, emailing and texting neck” as all these entertainments on smartphones contribute to neck and back pain.
While, the average head weighs ten pounds when properly postured, meaning when ears are over shoulders, for each inch of head tilt forward, referred to as “forward head posture”, pressure on the spine doubles and one’s head can feels like it’s holding up to 20-30 pounds. Over time the added pressure puts strain on the spine, flattening or reversing the natural curve of the neck, leading to misalignment, metabolic issues, bulging discs, restricted movement, bone changes, nerve compression, soreness and/or inflammation.
Still not convinced? In a slouched position, it can reduce one’s lung capacity as much as 30%. Limited oxygenated blood flow can lead to vascular disease. With additional pressure placed on organs due to poor posture, this can lead gastrointestinal and digestive problems.
Whether you’ve been a sloucher all your life or you catch yourself leaning over the kitchen counter with your phone, there’s quick adjustments, pun intended, that can be used to limit future pain:
- Be aware of how you sit. Frequently, roll shoulders back and keep ears directly over them to prevent you head from tilting forward
- Use Bluetooth or a headset
- Look down at phone with eyes, no need to strain neck
- When possible, make phone calls instead of texting
- Use the voice recognition feature on smart phones and tablets
- Use a docking station and wrist guards to support weight of tablets and phones
- Use Dr. Fishman’s Text Neck Indicator, an Android app, that gives real time alerts–a green light appears on top corner of phone when phone’s being held in an acceptable viewing angle; a red light appears when phone’s turned to an unacceptable viewing angle. The app also tracks slouching patterns, calculating an average posture score. Staying above 85% is ideal, as its standard measurement for good posture.
- Incorporate quality posture exercises, such as yoga, Bar Method and pilates
- Invest in a quality chair that will support your back. Make adjustments for feet to stay flatly on the floor.
- Every twenty minutes getting moving, such as taking a lap around the office, moving from one side of the room to the other and/or replenishing with water. Again, roll shoulders and neck to keep blood flow moving.
- Incorporate NHS Live Well posture exercises into daily routines
- Parents: lead by example and limit use of smartphones and tablets; encourage good behavior of your children
- To ensure spine’s straight, don’t lean over a desk or table.
- While sitting or standing, holding reading material at eye level, which prevents the need to bend over.
While use of smart phones is here to say, “text neck” does not have to be!