Smartphones. We love them, and we hate them.
They make our life easier in so many ways. They help us stay connected with distant relatives and friends. They give us hour-by-hour weather forecasts and quick answers to life’s most pressing questions like, “Do some female spiders actually eat males after they mate?”
But many of us are well aware of the “downside” of smartphones. With constant access to unlimited information, we often miss ‘life’ happening around us. We can’t seem to shut them off and are often compelled to check every text or email we receive – even at the risk of offending our lunch date. The draw to the glowing screen is so great that we’re getting into more car accidents than ever before. The messages on the interstate are always screaming, “Don’t Text and Drive!” and “Get out of your apps!”
Worst of all, this poor posture is leading to arthritis.
The Text Neck Epidemic
Over time, this poor posture, often called text neck, can lead to early wear and tear on your spine and eventually cause degeneration and arthritis.
“This has been a growing problem for years, and now it’s considered a global health problem,” explained Dr. Charles Fulk, Kansas City chiropractor at Fulk Chiropractic. “Just take a look around; everyone has their heads down.”
Not sure how much 50 pounds is on your neck? Just picture carrying a 6-year-old around on your neck for several hours every day.
How Much Time DO We Spend on our Smartphones?
According to research, on average, smartphone users spend between 2-4 hours every day hunched over their phones, checking email, texting, or in their apps. That’s almost 1400 hours every year that people are putting their spines in a compromised position.
“The problem is really obvious in kids,” explained Dr. Fulk. “The increased stress on their neck is leading to complaints of neck pain and headaches from smartphone use sometimes as early as 12 years old. I would really like to see parents putting more limits on smartphone use.”
We’re Actually Changing Our Anatomy
Instead, the vertebrae in their neck are stacked on top of one another.
Without the natural curve in your spine, the joints in your neck begin to degenerate. The discs (or soft jelly-like tissue) between your vertebra eventually give out because of the pressure. This is the beginning of arthritis.
With little room for your nerves to exit, they become pinched and irritated. This can cause severe neck pain, stiff neck, shoulder pain and headaches as irritated nerves run out from your neck.
When you stretch tissue for a long time, it get’s sore and the joints become inflamed. This can also cause muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated discs and eventually, arthritis.
Imagine bending your finger all the way back and then holding that for about an hour. That’s essentially what’s happening when you continually place your head and neck in a compromised position.
What’s the Best Treatment for Text Neck?
While it’s almost impossible to avoid using our phones, we should make an effort to look at our phones with a neutral spine and try our best to avoid spending several hours hunched over every day.
Here are a few tips to treat and prevent text neck:
- Look down with your eyes. Not your head. Hold your phone up higher (such as on a table our counter) when you’re seated, and then keep your spine in a neutral position as you read.
- Take several breaks throughout your day and do neck exercises. Repetitive motion injuries often result when we repeat one movement over and over or remain stiff and immobile for long periods of time. But taking breaks to stretch your neck, shoulders and back, you can prevent many of the neck injuries that often accompany text neck.
- See your local chiropractor. Chiropractors specialize in restoring proper motion to joints that are locked up or fixated. Through chiropractic adjustments and physiotherapy, they relieve the pressure on the nerves and restore proper moment to your neck. Degeneration begins to develop when joints become locked up or immobile. Traditionally, arthritis develops later in our 40sh, but we are seeing individuals with spinal arthritis, now, in their late 20s and 30s. By restoring motion and proper movement, chiropractors can stop the process of degeneration, but it cannot be reversed. That’s why it’s imperative to ensure that you are maintaining proper movement throughout all of your joints.
- Check out the ergonomics of your computer workstation. Make sure your computer monitor is at eye level and that your keyboard is low enough that your arms make a 90 degree angle when you’re typing. If you use a laptop, consider purchasing an inexpensive external monitor and keyboard to keep you from hunching over to see your computer screen.
- Sleep on your back or side. Make sure your spine stays in a neutral position as you sleep. If you’re a stomach sleeper, it’s time to retrain your body to sleep on your back or side. Read this post for a few tips on how to make the switch.
The 11 Kansas City chiropractors at Fulk Chiropractic specialize in treating text neck and related neck pain symptoms. They provide effective neck pain relief through non-invasive chiropractic treatment to thousands of Kansas City area patients every year.