By Dr. Jennifer Escarcega
Smartphones… how did we ever live without them? They allow us to communicate with anyone in the world at any time, download music, schedule appointments, catch up on current events, and have become so ingrained into our daily lives that for many of us, it would be difficult to turn back the clock and live without them. While the usage of smartphones have increased dramatically over the past 5 years, so has the emergence of a new epidemic called ‘text neck.’
Text neck is the term used to describe the neck pain and damage resulting from looking down at your phone, tablet, or other electronic devices for an extended period of time. On average, the human head weighs approximately 12 pounds,but as you bend your head forward, the weight and pressure on your neck increases. When your head is bent forward at a 15 degree angle, the pressure of your neck is about 27 pounds. At 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 50 pounds, and at a 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds! That’s the equivalent of carrying an 8-year-old child on your neck for several hours every day.
Text neck most commonly causes tension in the neck and pain, but can also cause upper back pain, herniated discs, headaches, muscle spasms, shoulder pain, pain between the shoulder blades, and even numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers. Over the long term, it can also lead to degenerative/arthritic changes in the cervical spine, and a loss of the neck’s natural curve.
Fortunately, text neck can be avoided, and prevention is the key. When using electronic devices, try to hold them at eye level whenever possible. If it’s not possible, look down at the device with your eyes only, not your head. This is also true when viewing televisions, laptop screens, and your desktop. If your monitor is not at eye level, make sure to raise it so that you don’t have to look down or bend your head forward to view it. Also, take breaks throughout the day. Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back as if you were trying to pinch your shoulder blades together, and roll your shoulders back a few times to release some of the tension.
If you are already suffering from text neck, seek professional care. Rehabilitation is important. Some people will benefit from a more comprehensive treatment plan consisting of manual adjustments, massage therapy, and exercises to strengthen not only the muscles in the neck, but the core and low back as well. The good news is that this condition is not permanent and can be corrected. So enjoy your smartphones, with proper posture.
Dr. Jennifer Escarcega is a chiropractor who has been serving Wilmington and the surrounding area since 2010. Dr. Jen is a graduate of Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, and Sherman College of Chiropractic in Boiling Springs, SC. In her free time, Dr. Jen enjoys diving and serving with Baptist Medical & Dental Missionaries International in Nicaragua.