A new epidemic is on the rise: it is called “Text Neck”, which is impacting millions of people and is now a growing concern in our children. We live in a tech driven world, and it’s unfortunate that some people feel they can’t live without their gadgets. Constantly looking down at your phone or tablet puts pressure on the spine and all the muscles that support you to stay upright. X-rays are showing changes to the skeletal muscles and one’s posture from the use of electronic devices, causing acute neck pain and a hunched over appearance. As you can see by the photo above, with each degree of spinal/neck flexion there is an increase in pressure on the spine. The average adult head weighs about 10-12 lbs. To put it in perspective, the added degree of flexion can feel like you are carrying the weight of 4 Bowling Balls atop your shoulders, according to a study covered by the Today Show.
What are the long term health risks? 58% of Americans with forward head posture while texting may experience reduced lung capacity as much as 30%. Over time, this can translate to a higher incidence in developing blood vessel disease according to an article written for Web M.D. The added pressure on the neck and spine can also lead to degeneration, which may lead to possible surgery down the road. Think about what this is doing to our children’s posture and their overall health! More and more physicians report seeing kids for acute neck pain, which was almost unheard of in the past. We as adults have to be aware of this behavior in ourselves to realize that our children are also being impacted dramatically. Get yourself and your family up and moving, and take breaks from your electronics as much as 5 to 6 times a day. Stretching your chest muscles and even the smaller ones that run underneath your chin is important in order to counteract all that flexed posture. Keeping your neck limber will also go a long way in combating shoulder and upper back pain. Strength of the upper back muscles is just as important to maintaining good posture. Grab yourself a flat resistance band, which can be found at any major department store. Try performing the following exercise 3 to 4 times a week to work the muscles in your upper and mid back:
1. Fold the resistance band in half and make a knot in the folded end, about 1 inch up.
2. Place the band with the knotted end into a door jam, at chest level. The knot should be on the other side of the door-
way so when you shut the door firmly you can’t pull out the band. Lock the door.
3. Grasp the two loose ends of the band in each hand, with palms facing each other.
4. Squeeze your back muscles and pull on band till elbows are behind you and hands are close to chest. Hold for two to four seconds, slowly release the band to the front, while keeping the band from going slack. Repeat exercise for 8 to 12 repetitions.
Becoming aware of your posture is so important when you feel you just can’t get away from your computer or cell phone. Simply holding your phone at eye level when reading or texting will help alleviate poor posture and possible neck pain. If you do hold your phone a little lower, you can still look down, just don’t lower your chin toward your chest and keep your neck straight. At the computer pull your chair up closer and sit upright in order not to hunch forward. Make sure the height of your chair is at the correct height to your desktop.
Advances in technology have made things easier for us mentally and physically, so it’s vital for us to be aware of how that can impact us in our daily lives. We have evolved into high-functioning and upright beings….let’s stay that way!