Using a mobile phone or tablet is an everyday activity for most people – with over 35 million smartphone users in the UK and a prediction that half of us will regularly use tablets by the end of 2015. But for many it’s a pain in the neck – literally.
‘Text Neck’ is the name for the Repetitive Strain Injury caused by staring at a mobile device for hours a day. As we bend our heads forward to stare at our mobile screens, the load of the head on the cervical spine increases. The average human head weighs 8 to 10lbs, but as our head tilts forward 60 degrees the load can feel as heavy as 60lbs. This graphic on The Guardian website highlights this increasing load on the spine.
The increased load and poor posture can cause back and neck pain. It puts the spine under stress by stretching the whole structure of the back. This can cause a weakness in the ligaments and may even lead to bulging discs and nerve compression. In short, it leads to early wear and tear on the spine, and there’s a real concern that it could lead to younger and younger people needing spinal care – and, in extreme cases, surgery.
Here’s our advice for dealing with text neck:
- When using a mobile device, try not to have a hunched posture. Keep the spine in a neutral position and have your eyes look down at your device rather than tilting your whole head forward.
- Try to spend less time on your mobile device – where possible, wait until you get home and use a desktop PC instead.
- Make phone calls instead of sending emails, texts or instant messages.
- Regularly use neck exercises to stretch the ligaments in the neck and back – see below.
- Try yoga or pilates that each have an emphasis on achieving and maintaining good posture.
Try these exercises daily to help alleviate your ‘text neck’ symptoms:
- Let your head fall to one side, ear to shoulder. Feel the stretch in the neck muscles. You can increase the stretch by gently pulling on the head with your hand. Hold for 10 seconds on each side.
- Twist your head to look over your shoulder as far as you comfortably can and hold for three seconds. Repeat on the other side.
And remember: our osteopaths offer free spinal health checks to assess your back pain problem and identify the cause. If you think you’d benefit from one of these free 15 minute appointments, book yours now.