As you read this you are one of the many Australians who spends an average of 6 hours a day looking down at a screen. Depending on how long you’ve already spent doing so today, you may be noticed that you are experiencing some neck stiffness, upper back or shoulder pain or even headaches. These symptoms can be associated with Text Neck.
Text neck is a term used to describe the neck being repeatedly placed in a forward and downward position from spending long periods of time looking at a handheld device such as a mobile phone, tablet or computer.
Dr. Andrew Arnold adds, ‘Symptoms occur as the joints, muscles and ligaments are not built to withstand this position for a sustained amount of time, and doing so creates excessive stress and tension in the neck and shoulders.’
Now you may think but I’ve always looked down to read the newspaper or a book so why now is my laptop or iPhone such a big issue? The issue is smart devices have given us one more reason to be looking down, and now much more frequently, for much longer periods and without us needing to shift our position.
When your head is held in a neutral position it weighs approximately 5kg. However, for every 10 degrees your neck angle increases as you look down, an extra 4kg of weight is placed on the neck and shoulder complex. To put this into perspective, the average person will put their head on a 60-degree angle to look down at their phone; this means the neck and shoulders can feel as though they are trying to support an extra 24kg of pressure. That’s a lot of extra stress on the neck for 6 hours every day.
Research has shown that Text neck can cause a range of chronic problems, including:
- Muscle strains and sprains
- Spinal misalignment
- Nerve damage
- Flattening of the cervical curve
- Spinal degeneration
- Breathing issues
So what can you do to help prevent these problems from occurring?
- Keep your screen at eye level as much as possible. If phones and computer screens are placed at eye level you do not have to bend forward and down to look at them.
- Take frequent breaks from your phone or computer. Remind yourself to do so by setting an alarm every 30minutes to get up and walk around.
- Keep yourself fit: Strong and flexible neck muscles are better to equip at supporting the extra weight of your head.
- Health practitioners such as Chiropractors will also manual therapies to restore normal joint alignment and range of motion as well as prescribe rehabilitation stretches and exercises to help affected muscles.
With over 15million Australians owning a mobile phone and over 11million owning a tablet, the Text Neck epidemic is only going to get worse. So if you want your neck and shoulders to feel better and function better, be aware of your head posture and make active changes to your lifestyle to stop Text Neck.
About the Author:
Dr. Rhiannon Ezard is past resident Chiropractor at Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Ctr.