By Dr. Michael Nelson
Texting has become a way of life for both the young and old, for both personal and business uses. With this increase in texting, our modern health care has had to coin a new diagnosis: text neck syndrome, also commonly known as a repetitive stress injury.
Try to spend a whole day aware of your posture while you perform routine activities. Is your head bent forward during any of these activities:
- When you drive?
- While you surf the Internet?
- When you send an email or text from your phone?
Any prolonged period of looking down puts excessive strain on your neck. Correct Posture Month is celebrated every May and while text neck is just one way poor posture can affect your cervical spine, it’s important you know the dangers.
Our head weighs about the same as a bowling ball. When we repetitively place all of this weight into a head-forward position, it can add as much as 60 pounds of force to the cervical spine. I frequently treat patients who seek relief from pain and soreness in the neck and upper back. Their muscles have been overused in these specific areas, resulting in discomfort. I believe a lot of the pain is due to the hours they are spent hunched over using their digital devices.
Text neck is especially concerning to doctors of chiropractic because it could eventually lead to chronic problems, including early onset of arthritis in the neck. For young, growing children who look down the majority of the day, text neck could cause permanent damage or even curvature to their cervical spines. Permanent damage to this intricate network of muscles, tendons and ligaments can lead to lifelong neck pain.
The symptoms associated with text neck can range from upper back pain and muscle spasms to severe shoulder pain and tightness. If you do nothing about it, your symptoms will get worse. Consciously practice good posture. Stand or sit with your shoulders pulled back to keep the body aligned in a neutral position. Get in the habit of moving the device to eye level so the neck isn’t tilted. Most importantly, take frequent breaks. Spend some time away from the device and the head-forward posture.
Preventing the development and advancement of text neck is key. A comprehensive chiropractic treatment plan of traditional adjustments paired with Active Release Technique, or ART, and corrective exercises can help in the prevention and rehabilitation of text neck syndrome. In addition, simple neck and shoulder stretches can improve blood flow and relieve tension. Regular exercises that teach posture and body awareness, like yoga or Pilates, are great to counteract the tendency of developing neck pain from poor posture.
A modern, individualized and patient-centered approach reflects the changing reality of health care delivery in our nation. New chiropractic models of pain management bring greater clinical efficiency, higher patient satisfaction and cost savings to 27 million Americans annually.