Raise your hand if you consider losing your smartphone or tablet a slight emergency. Now keep your hand up if you’d stop what you were doing immediately to look for it and buy another one the same day if it didn’t turn up.
We’re addicted to our gadgets—smartphones, tablets, e-readers, laptops and whatever else our favorite tech companies come out with. So much so that nearly ⅓ of us say we can’t live without them, according to a November 2012 study from the Pew Research Internet Project.
And while nobody’s knocking the love we have for our gadgets, if you’re starting to feel pain in your neck and back from spending hours slouched over to thumb a text message, it may be time to do something about it.
80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives
Having Text Neck
This excessive use of smartphones and other mobile devices is creating similar strain on the neck and back that developed when people started to spend hours a day hunched over using a computer, says a November 2009 study from the American Public Health Association.
People with a habit of dropping their heads forward pay for it over time. Most cases of back pain are caused by mechanical issues, like slouched posture, and not by diseases and illnesses, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
The red flag is when the head, neck and shoulders are overused from leaning forward to look down at phones, laptops and tablets, according to the Text Neck Institute (Yes, that’s really what it’s called).
This, in turn, leads to a curved posture that resembles a slight hump back—plus neck and back pain, according to a June 2013 study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.
Good Posture Is Important
Where’s my phone?!
29% of cell phone owners say they “can’t imagine living without” their cell phones.
If you’re used to hunching over to use your mobile device, send yourself a text message that says, “Sit up straight.”
Because the habit has probably become so ingrained that you’re not conscious of it, you’ll have to take extra effort to walk and sit tall, according to the North American Spine Society.
This starts with sitting and standing with your chest up and shoulders back. Then, instead of dropping your head forward to see the screen, bring your elbows in to touch your waist and lift the screen closer to your face. There, isn’t that better?
If you’re sitting to use your laptop or tablet, sitting up straight will ensure that the weight of your head is supported by the spine; this decreases the stress placed on disks and also supports the ligaments in the neck, says the North American Spine Society.
Sit as straight as possible by getting a separate keyboard and mouse for your laptop. Now you can sit further back from the screen and keep it at eye level, rather than slouching over that tiny keyboard. You can also get a stand to raise your laptop closer to eye level or drop the height of your chair.
The goal is to get yourself in a position where your shoulders are squarely facing ahead, instead of rounded forward and your head is raised to a straight, neutral position, not dropped downward.
Sitting up straight supports the body against gravity, which tends to pull our heads and shoulders forward even more when we slouch. It allows the correct amount of muscle tension and provides balance, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Exercise To Improve Text Neck
There are also a couple of exercises that the North American Spine Society suggests doing twice a day to increase the strength and range of motion in the neck. This will prevent your neck from becoming too stiff. You can do these just about any place where you can send a text message.
● Neck rotations. With your head in a neutral position, slowly turn your head to the left as far as you can and hold it for 5 seconds–do the same to the right. You can do this exercise either sitting or standing. Do this in sets of 5.
● Scapular retraction. Stand with your arms at your side and the head and neck in a neutral position. Pull your shoulders blades back and downward. Hold this position initially for 10 seconds and work up to 30 seconds. Do this in sets of 5.
If your neck or back pain persists or gets worse, use that beloved smartphone to make an appointment with our orthopedic specialists, who can help manage your pain.