One of the most dangerous activities for our spine is something we do everyday, many times a day – look at our cell phone. With the advent of smart phones, doctors are beginning to see more patients with chronic headaches, back and neck pain, and increased curvature of the spine – all symptoms of a syndrome coined as “text neck.”
“Text neck” is technically a repetitive stress injury, trauma caused by overuse and misuse of the joints in the neck. Constant and frequent forward head tilt slowly changes the ligaments, tendons, and muscles of the neck, as well as the bones of spine itself. These spinal changes can result in early onset arthritis, chronic back pain, diminished lung capacity, and reduced sensation and mobility in the arms.
Approximately every degree the head is tilted forward causes an extra pound of pressure to be put on the spine. A 60-degree tilt, a common angle among cell phone users, equates to 60 extra pounds of pressure on the spine. That’s like balancing four Thanksgivings turkeys on the top your head.
Dr. Steven Shoshany, a chiropractor at the Manhattan Spinal Decompression Center says that “text neck” is a problem he sees every day, “studies suggest that 79% of the population, ages 18-44, have their cell phones with them for 22 hours per day. Most of my clients fall in this age range, so I see several cases a day.” Looking at a smart phone has become second nature for most people. Think of how many people you see staring down at their phones while standing in line, sitting on the subway, or waiting at a bus stop.
“Text neck” is also beginning to affect younger and younger populations, as kids in high school and even middle school have started using smart phones. Kids are also likely to wear backpacks, complicating any existing spinal issues.
The issues that occur with “text neck” also occur in populations that read or look down frequently – populations of college students, artists, chefs, etc.
There are many ways to keep using your phone and avoid “text neck.” The most basic techniques include taking frequent breaks from the cell phone, doing neck stretches, looking down with your eyes instead of your neck, and holding your phone up to eye level. However, the way we use our cell phones is deeply habitual, so for those looking for an easier way to change, there is now a “text neck” app. The app senses the angel of the phone and will indicate the appropriate position for the best posture.
Chiropractics is one of the best solutions for curing the damage and spinal curvature caused by “text neck.” In a study titled, Spinal manipulation and anterior headweighting for the correction of forward head posture and cervical hypolordosis: A pilot study, 15 subjects underwent chiropractic adjustments to correct improper neck curvature. The average decrease of forward head tilt was an impressive 9.9 degrees, with the best result being 23 degrees. This change decreases the pressure on the spine immensely; it’s like taking one of those Thanksgiving turkeys off the top of your head.
When “text neck” becomes chronic, changing the way you look at your phone will help, but to correct the long-term damage, Chiropractics is a powerful and important tool.