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Text Neck: How Smartphones Are Damaging Our Spines

Representative picture. (Getty Images)

Representative picture. (Getty Images)

Do you spend hours hunched down looking into your cellphone?

You may have noticed a new buzzword in health news recently: Text neck. That’s the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone that millions do for hours every day.

What is a Text Neck?

Text neck is the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long.

What causes a Text Neck?

Of course, this posture of bending your neck to look down does not occur only when texting. For years, we've all looked down to read. The problem with texting is that it adds one more activity that causes us to look down—and people tend to do it for much longer periods. It is especially concerning because young, growing children could possibly cause permanent damage to their cervical spines that could lead to lifelong neck pain.

The weight of the head is a key factor. The neck muscles are meant to support the weight of the head in a neutral position—10 to 12 pounds. However, many people look down at a 60-degree angle when texting on their phones, which places 60 pounds of force on their neck. The neck was not built to withstand this amount of pressure over a prolonged period.

How to Prevent Text Neck?

1) Raise the phone. Move the cell phone (and other devices) to eye level so the head doesn’t have to be tilted.

2) Take frequent breaks. Spend some time away from the phone—or any type of head-forward posture. Change positions when texting—lying on one's back is an excellent way to relieve pressure on the neck.

3) Stand up straight. Good posture, with the shoulders, pulled back, keeps the body aligned in a neutral position.

4) Arch and stretch. Arch the neck and upper back backwards periodically to ease muscle pain.

5) Stay fit. A strong, flexible back and neck are more able to handle the extra stress.

Exercise to Keep Your Neck Healthy

Simple neck and shoulder stretches are also important to improve blood flow and relieve tension, for example:

1) Tuck the chin down toward the neck, then slowly raise it up toward the ceiling.

2) Rotate the head so that it is looking out over one shoulder, then turn slowly and rotate in the other direction.

3) Rotate the shoulders in a clockwise direction while holding the arms down by the sides of the body; repeat in a counter clockwise direction.

first published:February 22, 2018, 10:08 IST