Technology has changed our lives, making everything from communication and sharing information to shopping and navigating more easily and more conveniently, which is why we're glued to our mobile devices more than ever. In fact, according to Informate Mobile Intelligence, Americans spend an average of 4.7 hours per day on their phones.
So, it's really no surprise that with the evolution of technology, repetitive stress injuries have also evolved. One of these is commonly referred to as text neck, also frequently called tech neck.
The Problem with Text Neck
The average human head weighs 10-11 pounds but when we lean forward or hunch over to use our phones, that weight adds* up to 50 pounds of stress on the neck and spine. In time, this can lead to degeneration and neck arthritis.
Another issue is that we're changing our anatomy. The human neck should naturally have a reverse C-shaped curve but people suffering from text neck are starting to lose that curve. Their vertebrae move until they are positioned one on top of the other. Without the natural curve, neck joints begin to degenerate causing the discs between the vertebrae to give out due to the pressure, which is the beginning of neck arthritis.
This leaves little room for the nerves in the neck, so they become irritated and pinched, leading to severe neck pain, shoulder pain, a stiff neck, and constant headaches.
Preventing Text Neck
Preventing text neck is all about adopting the proper posture, and reminding yourself to maintain the proper posture.
Keep Your Spine in a Neutral Position
First, don't move your head forward or hunch over when using your phone. Instead, either move your eyes or bring your phone up higher when seated to enable you to keep your spine in a neutral position when reading.
If you're using a tablet, instead of hunching over, buy a stand so you can position it in a way that allows you to maintain the same neutral position.
Take Frequent Breaks
Also, make sure to take frequent breaks throughout the day if you work constantly on a computer or a laptop. A few minutes every hour is ideal, during which time you should do some neck exercises. Remaining immobile for a long period of time can lead to stress injuries. By taking regular breaks to stretch your neck can help prevent text neck.
Make Sure Your Workstation Is Set Up Ergonomically
If you use a laptop or computer to work, make sure your station is set up ergonomically. This means having your monitor at eye level and ensuring your keyboard is low enough that your arms make a 90-degree angle while typing. Consider purchasing an external monitor and keyboard for your laptop to avoid hunching over to see the screen, which will also help prevent text neck.
Sleep On Your Back or Side
The last thing you want to do is add more strain to your neck by sleeping on your stomach after spending more than four hours during the day on your phone. Retrain yourself to sleep on your side or back, which will keep your spine in a neutral position and help reduce the strain on your neck.
Specially trained spine physicians can help relieve pressure on your spinal nerves and restore proper movement to your neck, which will help prevent degeneration and neck arthritis. If degeneration has already started, a spine physician can help stop it, but reversing it is not possible. For this reason, it is very important to not wait to visit a physician if you experience a stiff neck or neck pain, because the sooner you seek help, the better your chances of preventing text neck and neck arthritis altogether.
At Augusta Health's Spine Clinic, our physicians specialize in treating back and neck pain. If you suspect you might be developing text neck, give our Spine Clinic a call now to book an appointment. The sooner you call, the better your odds of preventing long-term neck arthritis.