Ever since the pandemic started, a lot of people have begun taking precautions and limiting themselves from going to school, and work. For this reason, most people ended up stuck at home and sitting for long periods of time with their upper back hunched, head poking forward, and shoulders rolled forward over the tablet, smartphone, or laptop. This is the main cause of a condition coined “text neck”.
Michael Liougas, a Toronto midtown physiotherapist reports that the number of patients that complain of this specific type of neck pain continued to rise throughout the pandemic. This posture has become so common that US chiropractor Dean Fishman has coined a new term “text neck syndrome” when referring to this condition.
What Is Text Neck?
Text neck syndrome is the repetitive stress injury to a neck caused by having one’s head in the forward position for a prolonged period of time. This forward bending posture negatively affects the shoulder muscles and neck, supporting ligaments, and the curvature of a cervical spine.
Text neck affects your spine while flexing your head forward at different degrees: When your head is tilted forward fifteen degrees, the pressure on your neck surges to twenty-seven pounds, at thirty degrees, forty pounds, at forty-five degrees, forty-nine pounds, and at sixty degrees, sixty pounds.
To help you understand this better, imagine yourself carrying a small child around your neck for 2-4 hours.
Causes And Symptoms
In most cases, text neck is caused by prolonged use of mobile devices with the head tilting downward and not moving. Some of the symptoms and signs of text neck syndrome include:
- Stiffness/tightness in your neck and shoulders that leads to a decreased range of motion
- Nagging or sharp pain in your neck and shoulders
- Constant or intermittent headaches
- Eye pain
- Nerve pain with a tingling sensation and numbness in your upper limbs
Prevention And Treatment
The strategies below can help you treat or/and prevent neck pain while you are using your smartphone, tablets, e-reader, and any other handheld device:
- Keep your head level: Look down with your eyes instead of your head or hold a phone at eye level. This can reduce the angle of a forward head posture, which will reduce the stress on the neck.
- Stretch: Perform shoulder and neck rolls throughout the day in order to release tension caused by tilting your head forward and bending down to stare at a screen.
- Practice good posture: A lot of us fail at keeping a good posture. Yet, developing a good posture is a necessary thing to do. For most people, slouching is quite an easy habit they can get into and a difficult one to break. Fortunately, you can use one simple method to easily improve your posture: Place the rolled-up towel right behind your lower back. This will help you to naturally guide your body to a good posture.
- Reduce the amount of texting: On average, women and men under thirty send at least 3,000 texts each month. While it can be impossible to stop texting, you can at least reduce the number of texts you send. For example, you can designate “no phone” periods throughout the day to achieve this. As an added benefit, others around you will certainly appreciate your undivided attention.
- Take frequent breaks: Try spending some time away from a phone – or any kind of head-forward posture. To make things easier, you can even use an app or alarm to set automatic reminders so you won’t forget to take a break.
- Exercise regularly: A flexible, strong neck and back will be less likely to experience extra stress.
- For kids, rest a device on the table instead of on the floor or in their hands.
As you can see, education, awareness, and proper positioning are the things you need to prevent the development of text neck syndrome.
As for the treatment, you can try an individualized rehabilitation program that focuses on improving the posture as well as restoring normal muscle function. Treatment plans can include the combination of corrective exercises and manual therapy for decreasing forces on a spine, strengthening inhibited muscles, and lengthening muscles that are short and tight.
Physiotherapists can help you in regaining control of the posture and getting rid of pain once and for all. If you decide to opt for one-on-one treatment sessions, you’ll receive personalized attention which will decrease an overall treatment time and help you see the results faster.
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