Expert Tips for Preventing Text Neck

Is chronic neck pain plaguing your day to day activities? Neck pain may range from achy tension in your muscles and tendons, to headaches, to radiating pain up into your skull or even down your arm. Most often neck pain stems from the basic strain of neck, back, or shoulder muscles from twisting in an awkward position or pulling it with some strenuous activity, be it exercise or heavy lifting.

More prominently, however, is the growing number of cases where neck pain is resulting from “text neck,” or Forward Head Syndrome. Dr. Kenneth Hansraj of New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, discovered in his research that the pull on your spine from the force of gravity grows substantially as your head and neck crane forward past your shoulders (when you use digital devices like smartphones and laptops, for example).

Calculations show that the magnitude of degree at which the head is tilted forward and down can be directly translated into added pounds of weight on your spine. For example, at a 15-degree tilt forward, your head will actually feel as heavy as 27 lbs on your spine (instead of the 10-12 lbs it actually weights). That number climbs as high as 60 lbs of weight on your spine when your head it tilted down at a 60-degree angle.

All this added stress on the spine manifests as strain on the adjacent muscles and tendons which have to compensate to hold everything in place. Resulting pressure and inflammation can cause bouts of acute pain or over time, damage that leads to chronic pain, soreness, and tension.

In the digital world where 2 out of 3 people use a smartphone and a growing number of jobs require sitting for upwards of 90% of the workday, the prevalence of “text neck” is widespread. If you are concerned about the health of your neck and back, don’t miss these quick tips for preventing “text neck”:

Phone Use

Get into the habit of holding your smartphone at eye level when you are using it to text, surf the web, check email, etc. If you have to hold your phone below eye level, try not to bend your neck but rather only look down with your eyes. When possible, also use voice to text features on your phone instead of typing or make a call instead of texting.

At Work

If you are chained to a desk during your 9 to 5, be smart about your computer monitor placement and how much you are sitting. Use a standing desk when possible, and make sure the top of your computer monitor is at or just below eye level. And don’t forget to get up frequently to stretch your back and walk around.

At Home

Apply a cool pack for neck pain when your neck and shoulder muscles feel tight or inflamed. Follow that up with a session with a heating pad to help relieve inflammation and loosen up stiff joints and muscles. These basic treatments along with massage, spinal manipulation, and topical aids can help you find relief without having to take medicine. And ditch late-night smartphone use in bed. Awkward body positions and forward head postures are even more prominent when you are lying propped up on an elbow or skimming Instagram on your stomach.

In the Gym

Practice exercises that can help stretch and strengthen neck muscles to reinforce good posture habits when using your phone or other digital devices. Mindfulness-cultivating activities like Pilates, yoga, or Tai Chi can also help you foster a greater mind-body awareness so you more keenly pick up on poor body positions you are taking when you use smartphones and computers.

Out and About

Need a little extra reinforcement to help you avoid bad posture habits like text neck? Download helpful apps that can do things like gauging your eye level with your computer monitor to alert you when it falls, or vibrating your smartphone in your shirt pocket when it feels you slumping. Apps like Text Neck Indicator, Perfect Posture Workout, Nekoze, and Posture Man Pat are a good place to start.

Smartphones bring so much convenience and value to your life, however, when it comes to common back and neck pains, they can be a primary culprit. Prevent “text neck” from creeping up on you with smart posture habits!

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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