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Avoid Neck Pain from “Text Neck”

neck pain

You can’t go anywhere this day and age without seeing someone looking down at their cell phone. I’m guilty – I even stare down at my phone in the grocery store looking at digital recipes and my shopping list.  All this looking down can lead to neck pain from what medical experts are now calling “Text Neck”.

What is your cervical spine?

Your spine is made up of 4 major sections:

  • *cervical spine
  • *thoracic spine
  • *lumbar spine
  • *sacral spine.

Your cervical spine is your neck and made up of seven vertebrae with discs between each of these bones. Normally, the cervical spine has a small curve or lordosis which is there to help with movement and absorb any shock or force through the spine.

How does looking at my phone put pressure on my cervical spine?!

The more you are looking down at your phone, the flatter the cervical spine curve becomes, making it harder for the spine to absorb any shock or force and protect your spinal cord and nerves.

A human head generally weighs about 10-12 pounds, but the more you bend your neck while looking down, the force on the head will increase the weight into the spine. For instance, when you are looking down about 15 degrees, the weight on the neck is 27 pounds instead of 12. This steadily increases with the angle of looking down.

When the head is at a sixty degree angle, which is about where you are looking down at your cell phone, the weight is up to 60 pounds of force through the neck. The spine isn’t made to carry that load for any amount of time. That’s like carrying an 8 year old child or a husky dog around your neck!

So, if you are in that position for any length of time, you can really be doing damage to the joints, nerves, and discs in the cervical spine.

According to research, the average time spent looking down at smart phones is between 2-4 hours per day with high-schoolers often being the worst. Kenneth Hansraj, who is the chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, reports that the problem is really profound in younger patients. In these patients, the spines aren’t finished growing and any prolonged positions could cause permanent changes to the spine itself or surrounding support structures.

Prevent Neck Pain: Ways to Avoid Text Neck

I know what you’re thinking – but I HAVE to look at my phone! Here are some tips to start TODAY to prevent neck pain or postural issues associated with “text neck”:

1. Sit & stand in good posture.

First and possibly most importantly – always try to sit or stand with good posture. If you are standing slouched over to start with, you are already increasing the forces through the neck AND THEN adding more weight to the poor posture by looking down.

2. Hold phone at eye level.

Research has shown that this was the most effective at keeping text neck away the longest. Bringing the phone up to your eye level will allow you to keep a “neutral spine” or good posture position without bending the neck forward. You can also prop your elbow on the desk or table.

3. Take breaks.

Don’t spend more than 3-5 minutes at a time looking down at your phone. Make it a habit of looking up or side to side after every email or article you read – for every email or article read, spend 10 seconds looking up and moving your head.

4. Exercise your neck & upper back!

During those breaks or time away from your phone or computer, make sure to do some range of motion exercises for your neck. Look up and down, side to side, and bring your ear gently towards each shoulder. This will help keep some flexibility in your neck.

Exercises geared at strengthening your upper back and area around the scapula or shoulder blades also help with posture long term and balance out the bad posture habits.

5. And just a reminder – Don’t read your phone and drive or walk!

It’s just plain dangerous!!

Experiencing neck pain?

If you’re experiencing neck pain or other symptoms, physical therapy can help. Click here to schedule a complimentary phone consultation with one of our therapists.

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