In our tech-obsessed society, we are never far from our cell phones. Many of us are texting and answering emails on our smartphones throughout the day. However, this modern convenience is ruining our posture, and that can have long-term effects on our spines. This epidemic is called “text neck,” and it’s more serious than you might think.
What is “Text Neck”?
Text neck describes the posture we adopt while looking down at our phones. Our heads are down, causing our necks to slant forward so that our heads are in front of our shoulders. This is called forward head posture. Those who have forward head posture also tend to have slumped shoulders, which only contribute to the problem. To have correct posture, our heads should be in line with our shoulders, and the shoulders should be back.
Text neck doesn’t just look bad, though. It can also do serious damage to our spines. A recent study found out just how much strain we put on our necks from leaning forward. On average, the human head weighs about 12 pounds. However, when the neck is bent forward, the weight on the cervical spine can be as much as 60 pounds, depending on the degree at which the neck is tilted. In fact, when our necks are at just a 15-degree angle, the weight on the cervical spine more than doubles to 27 pounds. On average, we spend about 2 – 4 hours on our smartphones each day, and young people may spend even more time than that. That’s a lot of time for our necks to support all of that extra weight.
What Are the Long-Term Effects?
You might think “Is it really that bad? We’ve been reading in that position for years.” The problem is, all of that extra time slumped forward can do permanent and long-term damage to the cervical spine. Initially, this posture can cause headaches and pain in the upper back, neck, and shoulders. Eventually, it can lead to increased curvature in the spine. This is a particular concern as smartphones become more popular among children; the curvature in the spine could become permanent.
Over the course of time, text neck can lead to early wear and tear on the spine, which could result in muscle strains, pinched nerves, or herniated discs. This problem may lead to people needing spine care at younger and younger ages.
How Can We Correct It?
Our smartphones are part of our everyday communication; it would be impossible to give them up. Luckily, you don’t have to give them up to avoid text neck. Try these tips to correct your poor posture.
- Hold the phone at eye level. If your phone is at eye level when you’re texting or reading your emails, you’ll be less likely to slouch to see the screen.
- Move your eyes, not your whole head. If you can’t hold the phone at eye level, that doesn’t mean you are forced to bend your neck to. Keep your head in the correct position, and look down with your eyes.
- Stretch your neck. Move your head from left to right, using your hand to apply gentle pressure to increase the stretch.
- Do shoulder squeezes. Shoulder squeezes are a great move for improving posture. Bring your elbows behind you, squeezing your shoulder blades together as if you are trying to make them touch. Hold for a count of 5, and repeat 10 – 20 times.
Simply being aware of your posture is the first step to correcting it. Keep your head up, and don’t fall victim to text neck.