Is Your Smartphone a Pain in the Neck?
Fifty-eight percent of American adults own smartphones. If you spend more than two hours a day hunched over your phone, you might succumb to “tech neck”. Tech neck is a condition that occurs when you spend too much time with your head tilted forward to read texts or other content on your smartphone. At a15 degree angle, your head puts about 27 pounds of pressure on your neck and spine. Patients with mobile technology-induced head, neck and back pain may face other issues besides pain like reduced lung capacity, headaches and neurological issues, depression and heart disease.
While tech neck, also known as ‘text neck’, is associated with chronic headaches and shoulder/neck pain in adults, doctors are also starting to see increased curvature in the spine — especially in kids. When most of us were young, we’d hang our heads to read or take a test, but then we’d get up and do other things. Now kids close their books and then get back into that posture texting, browsing and emailing, remaining in the posture for significantly longer. It’s important to remember to take regular breaks from our devices. Every 20-30 minutes, stand up, look into the distance (you’ve been using your close up vision while on a device) and stretch.
Avoiding these health issues requires a modification in how we use our devices. First, look down at your device with your eyes. There is no need to bend your neck. Or, hold your device at eye level to avoid craning your neck. Second, exercise. Move your head from left to right several times. Use your hands to provide resistance and push your head against them, forward and then backward. Stand in a doorway with your arms extended and push your chest forward to strengthen your upper back and stretch the muscles of your chest.
There is an app available for Android phones, that can help you determine when you are at risk. When your device is held at a safe viewing angle, a green light shines in the top left corner. When you’re at risk for tech neck, a red light appears.
Technology is a wonderful thing and it certainly makes our lives easier. As we know, though, too much of a good thing is not usually good for us. Be mindful of the signs of tech neck the next time you are on your device and take steps to keep your spine and neck healthy.