Recently I read an article in which a healthcare practitioner referred to the growing number of neck-pain patients he was treating as having “Text-Neck”—brilliantly named, sir!
As a physical therapist, it’s my opinion that we’re about a decade away from seeing far greater ramifications of our generation’s head down connectedness to their hand-held mobile devices. The “phones” that most of us carry are no longer something we merely hold to our ear with our heads held high. In fact, that is now the least common posture in which we use them. Our cellular phones now contain a world of possibilities that have us thoroughly enraptured. We simply can’t look away!
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I, too, am guilty of repetitive phone checking, email sending, text receiving, Facebook® scrolling, information/fact finding, etc. However, as a professor who teaches physical therapy doctorate students how to diagnose and treat issues of the spine, I am very careful not to “over stay my welcome” in the land of neck flexion. You, too, need to be diligent about the head position you use when perusing your phone because destructive forces lie in wait for those who are unaware.
The first thing you will likely feel after your head has been hung low for a long while is some neck muscle soreness/stiffness. Here’s why: Your head weighs in at about 6-10 pounds. When it is bent forward at a 60 degree pitch, the relative weight of your head (according to mathematical calculations) is about 60 pounds! Now that’s an awful heavy load for your diminutive neck muscles to have to support.
Prolonged neck flexion is also harmful to the intervertebral discs in your neck and upper back. Discs are similar to a jelly donut in structure, in that their centers are filled with a gel-like substance. When a forward-bent neck position is held for prolonged period of time, the gel portion will begin to migrate towards the back of the disc leading to internal disc breakdown presenting clinically as disc bulging or herniation, nerve impingement, and potentially, full blown spinal stenosis.
“Text-Neck” is absolutely avoidable. Practice lifting your phone to chest height, elbows at your sides, and to look down with a head-on-neck tilt, rather than a neck-on-back hinge. Take frequent breaks to restore your upright head position so your neck will be ready for its next challenge.