You might have heard the terms “Tech Neck” or “Text Neck” recently. These terms describe a severe spinal distortion that occurs when we humans spend inordinate amounts of time with our heads and neck bent forward, staring at little screens. It’s also called Forward Head Posture. This leads to not only neck and upper back pain but is also associated with headaches, premature degeneration (arthritis) of the neck, flattening of the spinal curve, a spinal misalignment (subluxation), disc herniation and compression, nerve and muscle damage, loss of lung volume capacity, and gastrointestinal problems. Left untreated, serious permanent damage can result from text neck.
These are just a few of the problems associated with text neck, according to research published by Kenneth Hansraj in the National Library of Medicine. The study will appear soon in Surgical Technology International. Medical experts have been warning people about this problem for years. And it is an epidemic. Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over their phones. That’s 700 to 1,400 hours per year people are putting stress on their spines, according to the research. And high-schoolers might be the worst. They could conceivably spend an additional 5,000 hours in this position, according to Dr. Hansraj.
You might have seen the recent X-ray which went viral of what was termed a “horn”. It really isn’t a horn, it is a bone spur which forms over time, due to prolonged pulling or tractioning where the tendon attaches to the back of the skull. This is similar to bone spurs that form on the heels of women who wear high heels. This spur formation used to be seen only in the elderly, after years of Forward Head Posture. We are now seeing this condition in a group where we never saw it, young people.
The average human head weighs 12-14 pounds. For every inch, the head tilts forward, the pressure on the spine doubles. As the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds. Can’t grasp the significance of 60 pounds? Imagine carrying an 8-year old around your neck several hours per day.
Here are three tips to nix text neck, improve your posture and counteract Forward Head Posture:
Have someone snap a picture from the side as you use your smartphone. If your posture and alignment are correct, you should be able to draw a vertical line from mid-ear to your shoulder. If it is not good, then you need to take action.
Extend your neck and head back. Take a break every 20-30 minutes and stretch back to oppose the forward bending. Even better, do this standing up. This helps negate the damaging effects of sitting all day. It alleviates stress and muscle pain, and it feels great! Repeat 4-5X every 30 minutes. Check out this handout for 2 additional neck exercises.
Look forward. Rather than tilting your chin down to read your mobile device, raise the device to eye level. The same goes for your desktop computer. The middle of your monitor screen should be at eye level so your head isn’t dropping and causing muscle strain. This applies to computer screens as well.
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