Tips to Avoid ‘Text Neck’

We are proud to have our practice featured in Seacoast Online discussing Text Neck, written by Suzanne Laurent…

Dave Text Neck  Pix w swishLiving in the age of constant connection by electronic devices has a lot of people literally developing a “pain in the neck.”

This 21st-century problem is being called “text neck,” and it is a repetitive strain injury that is caused by hunching over smartphones and tablets.

As people become more tethered to their smartphones, physical therapists are seeing patients come in with muscle pain in the neck and shoulders and sometimes lower back.

It’s easy for an hour or longer to go by as people are constantly checking their phones or tablets for news, mail and visiting social websites like Facebook.

“The oddly angled neck and rounded shoulders strains the entire upper body,” said David Burchuck, a physical therapist and owner of Lighthouse Physical Therapy in Portsmouth and Dover.

“Looking down and dropping your head forward, changes the natural curvature of your neck,” he said.

Over time, this misalignment can strain muscles and cause wear and tear on the structures of the neck.

According to spine-health.com, a recent study showed that 79 percent of the U.S. population between the ages 18 and 44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time — with only two hours of their waking day spent without their cell phone in hand.

“We see complaints of stiff necks, carpal tunnel syndrome, cervical spine spasms and headaches from muscle tension,” Burchuck said.

And, according to a new calculation published in Surgical Technology International, the weight of the head felt by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees.

An adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position. As the head tilts forward the forces seen by the neck increases to 27 pounds at 15 degrees; 40 pounds at 30 degrees; 49 pounds at 45 degrees; and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.

Looking down at a smartphone with your chin to your chest can put about 60 pounds of force on your neck. This is roughly the weight of four adult-sized bowling balls.

Burchuck recommends setting the timer on the smartphone for 30 to 40 minutes, and when it goes off to get up and stretch.

“Posture is important and simply arching your neck and upper back backward and pulling your shoulders into alignment under your ears can help alleviate stress and muscle pain,” Burchuck said.

He also recommends doing wrist flexion stretches twice a day for 30 seconds. This can be done by placing your fingers on the desk or table and raising the wrists.

He said using a stylus could avoid texting thumb pain.

“If you can, raise the phone up to eye level,” he said. “You can also put an iPad or tablet on a stand.”

The same goes for your desktop computer. Your monitor screen should be at eye level so your head isn’t perpetually dropping and causing muscle strain. Laptops should also be at eye level.

There are text neck apps for Android smartphones.

Text Neck Indicator lets the user know when the phone is held at an acceptable angle for viewing by a green indicator light in the top corner of the phone.

The HeadUp app lets you know the weight pressure on your neck while using smart phone. This app is designed for the people who want to build a good habit of using a smartphone.

An app for the iPhone for text neck is not available yet.