Even if you aren’t 15, chances are good that you use your smartphone quite a bit. You may not be texting “LOL” and “where r u” every 90 seconds, but you’re probably checking and answering email, using apps, and, yes, texting. That means you may be at risk for “text neck.”
Dean L. Fishman, D.C., founder of the Text Neck Institute, in Plantation, Fla., has defined the condition as an “overuse syndrome involving the head, neck, and shoulders, usually resulting from excessive strain on the spine from looking in a forward and downward position at any hand-held mobile device.”
Text neck is also referred to more clinically as “forward neck posture”: the further forward the head moves, the more pressure is put on the cervical spine”the seven bones in the neck region of the spine, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
According to Dr. Fishman’s site, text neck is a “global epidemic.” It’s hard to disagree, at least in the sense that this impaired posture is certainly ubiquitous. (I recently spent a morning in a jury-duty waiting room and noticed that nearly every person had assumed the “text neck” position over his phone or tablet.)
The chiropractic site Chiro.org cites the textbook The Physiology of the Joints in stating that “for every inch your head moves forward, it gains 10 pounds in weight as far as the muscles in your upper back and neck are concerned.” This causes nerve compression that may in turn lead to headaches.
A 2009 U.K. study compared head posture in people with and without neck pain and found that younger people with neck pain were more likely to have a more forward head posture than those without pain, though the difference between the two groups wasn’t big.
Not surprisingly, kids and teens may be particularly vulnerable. Dr. Fishman has appeared on the TV show, “The Doctors,” where he consulted with a young gamer whose mom had brought him in because he was having headaches. The doctor says that kids play an average about five hours of games a week.
Game designer Jane McGonigal quotes even more staggering stats: The average young person has racked up 10,000 hours of gaming (forget about texting) by age 21, and some 183 million Americans of all ages play games.
Spending a great deal of time hunched over a device can create or exacerbate pain, particularly in the neck, head, shoulders, and arms. What can you do to counteract text neck and its effects? It’s not complicated: As often as possible, keep your devices at eye level. And for more advice about how to make work less of a pain in the neck (and elsewhere), read our recent article on the topic.
Are you an habitual texter or gamer? Have you experienced “text neck”? Please join our community today to discuss.