01 February 2021

This week marks the beginning of the school year, an important question you will need to ask will your child be required to use a hand-held device? If so, here is a problem many are not aware of.

Ten years ago, the kids we saw in daily practice came to us with conditions either related to an accident or a sports injury. Times have changed now, and the trend we are seeing are health problems related to overuse, rather than injury. The past decade we have seen an increase in neck, shoulder, and wrist complaints in the younger generation. Problems normally reserved for adulthood are now being observed in adolescence.  Much of this, I believe can be attributed to the use or rather overuse of hand-held devices causing a phenomenon we commonly refer to as “text neck”.

Text neck is a modern age term coined to describe repeated stress injury and pain in the neck resulting from excessive watching or texting on handheld devices over a sustained period of time. With an average of 80% of teenagers owning or operating a smartphone, the effect it is having on our younger generation is starting to become more evident. A recent study by researchers at Baylor University in the US found college students spend an average of nine hours a day on a device. That is a lot of time looking down creating chronic stress on the neck, shoulders, and spine.

The most obvious and common problem device time has on our spinal health, is a condition we refer to as anterior head carriage. Head carriage is simply when the head remains tilted forward giving the characteristic hunched look that many of us associate with poor postural health. 

The average weight of the human head is 5Kg. Research has shown that for every inch (2.5cm) your head tractions forward the weight of skull almost doubles. Tilting the head forward to 15 degrees places about 13kg of force on the neck. This increases 18kg at 30 degrees and almost 22kg at 45 degrees. The current modern lifestyle of text messaging, watching videos, playing games and large hours of device time are further exacerbating the postural problems we now see in practice.

Some of the symptoms of these postural changes related to “text neck” include:

  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Shoulder weakness and/or pain
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Mid to upper back pain
  • Restricted movement of neck and shoulders

If you are currently experiencing any of these problems here are some helpful tips

  1. Elevate the position of your device ensuring it is at eye level. Thereby forcing your neck into extension rather than being constantly flexed forward.
  2. Try to work from your desktop vs your hand-held device as much as possible.
  3. Take regular short breaks or force your kids to do so. Even small breaks of 5 – 10 minutes can alleviate and reduce the constant load and strain on the neck muscles.
  4. Maintain and promote your personal fitness. Strong and flexible neck helps your body to support these abnormal positions.
  5. Chiropractic adjustments to support proper alignment, maintain healthy movement and ensure the spine and nervous system (spinal cord) are as free from irritation as possible.
  6. Stretch and perform exercises to support your neck and shoulders. Click here for a couple to get you started.
  7. Invest in a great pillow that supports your spinal health while you are asleep
  8. At the practice we have Denneroll’s and recommend these to help support a healthy cervical curvature thereby reducing some of the negative effects of anterior head carriage.

Here is a link to an informative video explaining the power of using the Denneroll.

It is unlikely the use of handheld devices will be going away anytime soon.  For this reason, it’s important we look after ourselves well before we start to develop problems. One of the goals of chiropractic is preventing long term damage and pain. As you may know personally neck pain is well…a pain in the neck.

Written by: Missy Garcia BSN, CFMP

References:

  1. Text Neck – Its Effects on Posture Jyoti Kataria Assistant Professor School of Physiotherapy Delhi Pharmaceutical sciences and research University, Govt of NCT Push Vihar M.B Road, New Delhi
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130226101259.htm
  3. http://medcraveonline.com/MOJYPT/text-neck-a-global-epidemic-of-the-modern-era.html
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6527223/

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