Don’t Let Screen Time Wreck Your Neck
By Alexandra Frost
Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist and content marketing writer, focusing on health and wellness, parenting, education, and lifestyle.
Too much screen time? See how “Text Neck” could be causing spine pain, headaches, and more
We have one more reason to question how healthy our smart phone addiction is. “Text Neck” is the phenomenon being labeled a “global epidemic” by chiropractors and spine specialists around the world, as humanity spends more time than ever with their neck in a forward flexed position, scrolling on their phones.
While it may seem harmless, we spend an average of three hours and 15 minutes everyday on our phone. With our heads weighing around 11 pounds, the pressure on our necks, spines, and related areas is adding up, and causing more than a little harm. So basically, your neck is supporting more weight than the average newborn baby, unsupported, for three hours per day.
Dr. Dean Fishman, one of the lead Chiropractic Physicians pioneering the Text Neck identification and treatment, coined the phrase “to explain the repeated stress injury to the body caused by excessive texting and overuse of all handheld electronic devices.” The condition, if left untreated, can result in:
- Flattening of the spinal curve
- Spinal degeneration
- Disc compression or herniation
- Muscle damage
- Loss of lung volume capacity
- Onset of early arthritis
- Spinal misalignment
- Nerve damage
- Gastrointestinal problems
Headache sufferers should consider if they are suffering from Text Neck without knowing it, as there are proven connections between neck and head pain.
Research supports the negative effects of extended phone use and poor posture that naturally comes with it. A 2019 Study published in PLOS ONE examined the issue, determining that the duration of phone use matters when it comes to prevalence and also severity of neck pain. Scientists concluded that “…smartphones are increasingly becoming essential in all aspects of our lives, and more attention should be given towards increasing awareness about the importance of having healthy sitting positions and using mobile phones for restricted durations, in order to control the increasing prevalence of neck and shoulder pain in our societies.”
The doctors initiating the fight against Text Neck have created an app to fight improper posture when using smartphones. The app keeps track of the angle you are holding your phone at, and indicates with a red light (and an optional notification) if you have moved into an unfriendly angle. This app, along with other spine and posture reminders, has created an accountability partner for people who are actively trying to improve their posture. If you are a bit lower tech, you can set a simple alarm to make sure you are moving, stretching, and going for a short walk periodically throughout your workday.
Luckily, we have the power to prevent and heal our tendencies towards text neck. Harvard Health recommends:
- Keep your neck in a neutral position (balanced over your spine, not leaning forward or to either side) as much as possible
- Keep your shoulders down and relaxed (set an alarm to remind yourself)
- Keep all computer screens you will be using for an extended period of time at eye level
- Don’t hold your neck in a bent position for more than 10 minutes, including when you are looking at a smartphone
- Seek professional care if your neck pain last more than 2 weeks
As always, if your Text Neck issues feel severe, seek immediate care rather than trying the above suggestions first. If you feel your posture is suffering, there is still hope for improvement through specific strategies for improving skeletal strength.
Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist and content marketing writer, focusing on health and wellness, parenting, education, and lifestyle. She has been published in Glamour, Today’s Parent, Reader’s Digest, Parents, Women’s Health, and Business Insider. She is a journalism teacher, proud wife to an assistant principal, and mom of three rambunctious sons under age 5. To read more of her work or to connect, check out her website.