Seven Ways to Prevent ‘Text Neck’

By Jens Erik Gould

The number of smartphone users worldwide is expected to surpass 2 billion next year. For doctors, that means 2 billion people susceptible to having pains in the neck—literally. There’s growing concern in the medical community that prolonged periods of looking down at smartphones can increase stress on the cervical spine, a condition colloquially referred to as “text neck.”

The physiology goes like this: the human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds when it’s in a neutral position. But that weight increases to some 27 pounds when the head is tilted downwards at a 15-degree angle, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, and 60 pounds at 60 degrees, according to a study by New York-based spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj. This is no problem when sending a simple text. But two to four hours a day reading and texting on smartphones, tablets and laptops? The gravitational pull puts undue stress on the spine.

When a person’s posture is upright, the head remains well balanced on the neck. But when the head is tilted forward, there’s less support. Remaining in the position for a prolonged period of time can lead to headaches, dizziness, cervical pain, shoulder pain, and numbness in the hands and arms, says Patrick Kerr, a chiropractic doctor in New York. And Hansraj adds: “These stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries.”

What can we do to change our ways? Doctors say these seven tips will help people prevent trouble down the road.

Raise up your phone.
Doctors encourage users to lift their phones to eye level rather than staring down at a screen. That way there’s no added pressure from bending the neck downwards. Alternatively, users can look down at their phones with their eyes rather than bending their necks.

Just put the phone down.
If the previous step is too awkward, simply don’t use your smartphone as much. Many of the tasks performed on a smartphone can also be done on desktop-based apps. For example, iPhone users can turn to Apple’s iMessage on the desktop, and the popular WhatsApp is now available for PCs. And as far as surfing the web, why do that on a smartphone when one can enjoy a much larger screen?

Take a load off.
For those who spend long periods of time on their phones, it’s important to take breaks. A good rule of thumb is to take a five-minute pause for every 15 minutes of smartphone use, and this one goes for tablet and laptops users too. If you’re sitting, get up, walk around and if possible engage in step #4.

There are simple stretching exercises that can make muscles and tendons happy again after a long texting session. One is to turn the head as far as possible to the left, then back to neutral, and then all the way to the right. Next, tilt the head ear-to-shoulder to one side, then return to upright, and then tilt to the other side.

Get a yoga membership.
When you have more time and aren’t in the middle of an important text to your boss, more involved stretching is in order. Ideal exercises include the prone neck extension, prone arm abduction and snow angels. Yoga moves such as mountain pose are also ideal for counteracting text neck.

Traveling by air?
Don’t fall asleep. Often, travelers sleep in contorted positions on airplanes and automobiles. When they do, the head often falls off the center of the neck, which can promote imbalance. Also, when in bed, it’s important to avoid sleeping on the stomach.

There’s an app for that.
Those being diligent about their posture can measure it. And ironically, they’ll need to use a smartphone to do so. Dean Fishman, a Florida chiropractor, created an Android app called Text Neck. It displays a green light when users are correctly holding their phones and a red light when they’re not. It vibrates when a user tilts down too much, and even calculates an average score measuring posture. Just don’t spend too much time on the app, or you’ll lower your score.

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Lifestyle Magazine: Seven Ways to Prevent ‘Text Neck’
Seven Ways to Prevent ‘Text Neck’
Lifestyle Magazine
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