Smartphone Use and Text Neck
Over the past decade, mobile phone use has exploded. Today, 95% of Americans have a mobile phone and 77% have a smart phone. This even more recent trend of mobile computing has only added to the problem known as Text neck. Now, in addition to bending the head forward to text, we are increasingly using our phones in this posture to read the news, watch shows, video chat, and every other internet-based activity.
Text neck is the term being attributed to injuries sustained from looking down for too long. Now, we’ve been looking down to read, write, and any number of activities for centuries. The problem is smart phones have introduced a number of activities that put us in this posture and we’re using them for over 4 hours per day.
Humans were designed to stand upright. On average, adult heads weigh 10 to 12 pounds. Our necks have a cervical curve that distributes the weight appropriately over the joints of 7 vertebra. When we bend our heads forward to check out our phones, the biomechanics change and adds stress to our neck and shoulders. One, researcher, Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, found that bending the head just 15 degrees adds 15 pounds of stress. The more we bend forward, the greater the increase. At 60 degrees we put about 60 pounds of pressure onto our neck. That’s like carrying an 8-year-old around on your neck.
The symptoms that come with this posture can put a damper on your daily activities: chronic headaches, neck, shoulder, and upper back pain. Another study found that in addition to these symptoms, heavy smart phone use can also have negative effects on a person’s psychology including depression. All this added stress also has long term effects. We’re seeing younger people with degeneration (arthritis) in the neck, a problem that is normally found later in the aging process.
Improve your posture
- Raise your phone or device to eye level
- For heavier objects, try using a stand (like a music stand)
- Take frequent breaks
- If your arms are getting tired, it might be time to take a break
- Overtime, your arms will strengthen to help you hold the phone up
- Stretch and strength your muscles
- Doing Eagle, Butterfly, and Hummingbird exercises twice per day for a minute can help improve your head and overall posture.
- If an exercise hurts, don’t do it and contact your doctor or chiropractor.
At first, it may be hard to do these regularly. Looking down at your phone is habit that takes time to break. Getting friends or family involved can help. They can see when you’re in the bad posture position when you might not even realize you’re looking down.