Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over, reading e-mails, sending texts or checking social media sites. That’s 700 to 1,400 hours per year people are putting stress on their spines, according to the research. High-schoolers might be at the worst risk. They could conceivably spend an additional 5,000 hours in this position.
Recent research, done by Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, suggests that when you have continuous and aggressive strain on the neck, you get wear and tear on the spine, straightening the natural curve of the neck and placing the discs under abnormal pressure. This increased pressure can create tears within the disc, resulting in a herniation of the disc itself and subsequent pain and neurological symptoms, like neck, upper back and arm pain, pins and needles and numbness. Some people may call this a “slipped disc” or a “pinched nerve”.
If you suspect that you have a pinched nerve in your neck, it is important to consult with your chiropractor. Some pinched nerves can lead to other, more serious conditions so it is a good idea to have a chiropractor evaluate you and monitor your recovery.
Some of the worse culprits of “text neck” are young people. With this excessive stress in the neck, we are starting to see young people needing spine care from a really early age. It is very important that parents start showing guidance and leading by example.
While it is nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, individuals should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine and to avoid spending hours each day hunched over. Here are a few tips on how to better manage your neck and your smart phone use:
• Hold your phone at a proper reading angle, rather than looking down. Your phone should be held directly in front of your mouth, a few inches across from your chin. Your eyes should look down rather than having to bend your neck down. Your shoulders should feel relaxed while you’re typing. Download a Text Neck application for your smart device allowing you to monitor your head tilt whilst using your device.
• Use a text-dictation program if you have one. Hold the phone in front of your mouth.
• Set a timer and take breaks.
• If using your device in bed, avoid flexing your neck too far forward with pillows that are stacked too high, thereby decreasing the stress on your neck.
• Build strength and range of motion. In your workout routine, include exercises and stretches that strengthen your neck and upper back.
• Drink water and maintain hydration.
• Use other forms of communication. Try the “old school” method of calling your family and friends or seeing them in person to chat.