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Heads UP: New Epidemic is Text Neck

Remember the explosion of carpal tunnel syndrome in early 2000? It became vital to educate the public about prevention and how to protect the wrists from overuse of the computer mouse, poor ergonomics, etc.

Today’s technology-induced epidemic is “TEXT-NECK”, causing complaints of chronic back pain, headaches and diagnosed spinal curvature. Estimated to affect 79% of the adult population who consistently spend time hunched over their wireless device, checking emails, texts and cell phone calls, text-neck is a major concern, especially for young people. 

Observe any crowd and everyone has their heads down, even in restaurants. Where people used to have conversation and eye contact at dinner, it’s not unusual to see everyone at the table looking at cell phones. 

As the average 12 pound head tilts forward, pressure on the spine doubles. At a 45 degree angle, it weighs 49 pounds. At 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds - like carrying an 8-year-old around your neck for several hours a day.

Caused by improper support of the head and poor posture, text neck can lead to severe degeneration. “It also causes pain in the shoulders, hands, arms, and numbness and/or tingling feeling in the arms,” says Torrance Memorial Medical Center physical therapist Yolande Mavity. Poor posture can also affect balance, causing dizziness, depression and even lung and heart disease.

The average adult user spends 2 to 4 hours bent over their cellular devices with teenagers spending even more, morning to night. The Kaiser Family Foundation says an average of 7.5 hours a day is spent on entertainment media devices by the 8 year old to 18 year old population - an unbelievable 53 hours a week!

Parents must become pro-active as role models and teach their children from an early age about good posture and ergonomics. Basic tips for prevention of text neck is foremost to limit usage time, to support the back with a chair versus slumping over; lift the pad or phone with a pillow or prop so it is closer to your head instead of bringing your head closer to the device; let your eyes do the work and look down vs. bending the neck; stretch the neck and back often and at intervals over extended periods; strengthen your core with Pilates or yoga to focus on good posture.

Above all remain mindful to shift from the static head position every few minutes. Simply moving your head left to right several times, use your hands to provide resistance and push your head against them, forward and backward will make a difference. A resource for stretching exercises that anyone can easily learn is found at the National Institute of Health website:

We can hardly avoid the use of technology but we can become smarter than the ‘smartphones’ with wise self-care. The message and mantra for users is “Heads UP” and enjoy the future with a focus on good posture. 

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