There is a new diagnosis in town and it’s been nicknamed “Text Neck”. With the emergence of smartphones and hand held devices for all that you do, we are seeing a growing number of repetitive strain injuries caused by the poor posture we adopt while hunched over our phones. Even in teens and adolescents there are more incidents of neck and shoulder problems than ever before.
The typical texting, emailing, and facebooking posture is your head dropped forward for extended periods of time. This changes the natural curvature in the neck and causes the shoulders to round forward or lift up towards your ears. Over time, this malalignment can strain muscles and put wear and tear on the soft tissue structures and joints of the neck and upper back. In an ideal posture, our neck is designed to support the weight of our head, which is about 10-12 lbs. Research has shown that for every inch your head is tilted forward, you double the load on those muscles. In the typical “text neck” posture, with your chin down to your chest, this can put 60 lbs of force on your neck muscles. Ouch!
Smartphones aren’t all to blame. This is also the typical posture we adopt while on our laptops, reading in bed, slouched in a soft chair, or studying on the couch. This slouched posture can also affect our lungs ability to fully expand and flush our brains with oxygen. Inhaling less oxygen makes our heart need to pump harder to distribute blood throughout our bodies. Several hours spent in these poor positions can be detrimental to our general health, both physically and mentally.
Neck pain in teenagers is commonly characterized by pain and tenderness in the neck, muscle weakness or tightness in the neck region, limited range of motion of the neck, and possible radiating pain to the head, shoulders or back. When complaints of neck pain include symptoms such as a rash, fever, nausea, generalized muscle weakness or swollen lymph nodes – consider something more sinister such as meningitis or Lyme disease and seek immediate medical attention.
How to prevent neck pain and still stay connected?
- Maintain appropriate posture – sit up straight and check that your ear is in line with your shoulder
- Take frequent breaks – look up, do shoulder circles, tuck your chin backwards, rest the neck
- Ergonomics – maintain the monitor at eye level, use a good chair with a supportive back rest, have feet flat on the ground
- Use headsets or earphones
- Avoid being on the laptop or doing homework in bed or on the floor
Good computer habits are essential for the young generation. They are learning to swipe and play and read on hand held devices from the age of two or younger! Frequently changing our position and encouraging our children to do the same can help to alleviate these repetitive strain injuries. If you or your child are suffering from a crick in the neck, we would love to get you straightened out and feeling better. The summer is short and this one has been beautiful. We want you to enjoy every minute of it. Happy Summer!