More likely than not, if you are reading this posting, you are in possession of a small powerful computer that is ultraportable and works almost everywhere. According to a Pew ResearchCcenter survey in 2016, 77% of Americans own a smartphone and nearly 7 out 10 Americans now use social media.
Now the phrase text neck was a term that first spread through the media channels in 2014. For example, The New York Times, Forbes, Washington Post and NPR all covered it. The research article mentioned in these publications was written by a neurosurgeon, Dr. Hahasant, who used a computer model to demonstrate the significant forces on the neck while bending forwards as so many people do on the subway platform and in the elevator. It has recently resurfaced in some other news sources. Here is the link to the journal article.
In summary, the model showed that as you increase the forward bend of your neck the stress increases. For example with 45 degrees of neck flexion “forces seen on the neck” are 49lb! It also warns of the detrimental effects of prolonged cellphone use potentially needing future medical intervention and possibly surgery.
The curiosity in me decided to look up this article referenced in so many media outlets. The article was in essence only one page long. It used a computer model often used by engineers to test the mechanical strength of for example, metal and not the complexity of the human body. Lastly, the article doesn’t explain what these forces actually mean and how they were calculated. Basically this study is seriously flawed and you can take a deep breath now. You won’t need to add “find a spine surgeon” to your to do list.
Is there a relationship between posture and pain? The evidence isn’t strong but let’s save that for another insight.
My message for this insight is that our bodies are designed to move. Most people would say that’s an obvious statement but our behavior and interaction with technology is making us more stationary and sedentary.
As a physical therapist with a history of neck pain and headaches, I try to limit how much time I spend on the phone and computer. I am going to take a break from writing now……OK. So now that we’ve calmed down from the text neck epidemic here are some tips
1) Don’t get sucked in the vortex.
The goal of Facebook and other social media platforms is to get you to stay on as long as possible. Whatever the reason for your phone use, set a timer on your phone for 10-15 minutes to take a micro break or a long break.
2) Does that come in a larger size?
You can change the settings on your phone so that the font and icons sizes are larger or display more contrast. This may make you less likely to lean in or down towards your phone.
3) Take the color out of your phone….temporarily
It’s easy to adjust your settings so you can quickly transition from color to grayscale. You will find less of an interest to browse and roam through all those apps you’ve downloaded and intended to use some day.
4) Mom, use the voice text, not the voice mail!
Most messaging apps offer the ability to use voice recordings or voice to text. That will save you from manually texting and fiddling with spell check.
5) Prop me up Scotty
In case you are watching an episode of Game of Thrones. Or roaming through YouTube videos, prop up your phone or tablet on a stand. Also, a variety of mounts attach your phone to your computer screen or table. Amazon carries a plethora of models.
6) If you’re going to use your cellphone at the dinner table would you at least sit up straight.
As mentioned earlier, the body is designed to move so there isn’t one perfect posture to maintain while using a device. Here are some positions you can experiment with but remember that variety is the spice of life so discover what works for your body.
-Rest your elbows on the front of your ribs and keep both hands on the side of the phone.
-Rest your left forearm across your abdomen and rest the back of your right elbow on your left wrist. You can then switch arms.
-When sitting, place your backpack or bag across your lap so that your arms can be propped up.
-Move! That is slowly take your eyes off the screen right now (but don’t forget to come back) and gently turn your head to the left and right. Then tilt your ear towards your shoulder on each side. Lastly, gently nod your head down while looking ahead. Perform each movement about 5 times in each direction.