• August 21, 2019

CATES: Text neck is a real thing - Odessa American: Opinions

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CATES: Text neck is a real thing

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Posted: Monday, July 22, 2019 12:30 am


It seems everywhere I go these days, I see someone bent over a phone or tablet. I have to confess, I fall right into that group. I spend far too much time bent over my phone, and there are times when my neck and shoulders are really sore when I’ve been on those devices for a while. So I was not surprised to learn there is a new spinal problem on the rise, known as Text Neck.

Text Neck is a repetitive stress injury resulting from bending the neck to look down. Of course, that is not a new movement — we have been looking down to read, write, and do other activities as humans for hundreds of years. What makes this different is because of texting and devices, the number of times we are looking down and the amount of time we spend with our heads down has increased greatly.

The average adult human head weighs about 10 pounds, and every inch a person tilts the head forward, the load on the neck muscles doubles, so when a person lowers their head by 3 inches, their neck muscles are now carrying 40 pounds of force.

The average person is now looking down at an electronic device approximately 5 hours a day. When you understand the force and the time, it’s easy to see how text neck injuries happen. Experts are also concerned because we are doing these things at younger and younger ages. Even toddlers are spending time each day bent over phones and tablets.

Harvard Medical Health researchers recently predicted that 7 of 10 people will have symptoms of text neck in their lifetimes.

Symptoms of text neck include neck pain and soreness, upper back pain ranging from nagging to sharp, and can include upper-back muscle spasms. Shoulder pain, tightness and muscle spasms, and potentially pain and numbness radiating down arms and into hands if cervical nerves (the nerves that exit the spine at the neck level) become pinched or restricted.

If you are concerned you may be experiencing these symptoms, please speak to your primary health provider about your concerns. As with most repetitive stress injury conditions, text neck is more easily treated when symptoms first appear.

As the old saying goes, “prevention is the best medicine,” when it comes to text neck. First is to hold your device at eye level whenever possible — this also applies to laptop screens and monitors, sit and position screens so they are at eye level. Take frequent breaks from your device or computer.

Some experts recommend setting a timer for every 30 minutes and getting up and walking around for a few minutes to give your neck muscles a break. One expert said the bottom line is to avoid looking down with your head bent forward.

A physical therapist and expert on Text Neck injury recovery, Dr. Karena Wu, from NYU says here are four simple exercises people can do to counteract the stress on their muscles from text neck.

The first is called “Pigeon Neck” — pull your chin back so that your head sits back between your shoulders.

The second is the “Nod”— sit in a good upright position with your head situated over your torso, nod yes to feel how much motion you have in the top most neck joint. Hold the bottom of the nod so it creates a small double chin, but not so much as to cut off your breathing or push your chin into your throat. Hold that position for 10 seconds and slowly release.

Third is “Chest Opening.” Sit or stand with your hands clasped behind your head. Open your elbows out to the side and squeeze your shoulder blades back. Feel a stretch in your chest.  Hold 10-20 seconds and slowly release.

Finally, is “Postural Correction”— sit on the edge of your seat. Have your legs apart with your feet turned out at a 45 degree angle. Next, hang your arms loosely at your sides with your palms facing forward. Bring your head back so it’s directly over your shoulders, and take about 10 slow, deep breaths. Repeat these exercises when you take a break from your device for the best results. Again, please consult your health care provider if you feel that you may be suffering for text neck so you can get the best treatment plan for your individual needs.

Odessa, TX

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