Well before the invention of cell phones, medical experts agreed that poor posture is the leading cause of back and neck pain. But the explosion of 24-7 cell phone use has seriously compounded this problem – and even given rise to a new medical condition: ‘Text Neck.”
“Text neck” is the nickname for all the back, neck and spinal issues affecting those who spend too much time on their cell phones and mobile devices. It is due to the constant hunching over people do to peer into their mobile screens, which malforms the spine. Physicians are reporting children as young as eight years old are affected.
Collectively, Americans check their smartphones over 8 billion times per day. And young adults age 18 to 24 send or receive an average of 109.5 text messages on a typical day.
“Just look at any crowd of young people, chances are most are exhibiting very poor posture from tilting their head down to read their device. This forces their neck and back muscles to work at awkward angles – just to keep the body upright, and pain and strain is often the result,” says Robert Gearhart, an operating room nurse and co-inventor of Body Aline (www.bodyaline.com), an exercise machine designed to strengthen the back and realign the spine.
“Cell phones aren’t going anywhere, so it looks like text neck will become a health problem of epidemic proportion in the years ahead,” Gearhart said. “If the trend continues, it looks like in 20 years the number of people who will have spine issues due to this will be astronomical.”
He says the best way to check your mobile device is to stand up straight and look at your device at eye level instead of reading it next to your torso, which usually results in your chin going down towards your chest. Or lie on your stomach when spending long periods of time on your phone. This provides a safe and natural passive isometric exercise to restore the natural curve to the neck.
Of course, it is not just mobile devices that can give a person back problems – there are many causes and some, such as arthritis, have no easy answers. However, Gearhart says frequently the cause of back pain can be something that can be adjusted with proper lifestyle choices, such as:
• Take breaks from desk jobs. When working at a computer, take a short break every 15 or 20 minutes, then move around and change your body and head positions.
• Adjust your workspace. Set your computer monitor at eye level. Raise your smartphone to eye level rather than lowering your head. Get a tablet holder to elevate your device close to eye level. If possible, get a standing desk or an ergonomic chair. Don’t slouch at your desk.
• Use voice-to-text as often as possible. This cuts down on the amount you are looking down at your phone.
• Hold your phone at eye level. Do not look down and allow your chin to move towards your chest when you are on your mobile device. This causes the back of the neck to support the head instead of the shoulders.
“Taking some preventative measures,” Gearhart says, “is much easier than trying to treat a spine that is already out of alignment.”