Let’s face it, when was the last time you were in a restaurant and everyone around was paying attention to those at the table as opposed to looking down at their phones? With lockdown, I know it may have been a while, but you get the picture. I’m sure you can’t quite recall. We often stay on our phones now more that we have real, direct interaction with others, whether it’s for work or entertainment. With this, you may have heard the term ‘text neck’ which is often used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your mobile phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long.
There are some scary articles and photos about this issue. Some people state that this regular posture of looking down can increase the weight your neck is supporting anywhere from 12 to 27kg, putting some serious stress on all the structures of the neck and shoulders. Some articles state that you can change the actual state of your spine from text neck, losing the natural curvature of the neck and potentially causing disc, vertebral, and nerve issues. The truth is, our bodies are made to adapt to postural changes and are far more resilient than we often give them credit for.
Now, just because our bodies are made to adapt doesn’t mean we should force them to, and it doesn’t mean that text neck isn’t still a potential problem to worry about. Any kind of prolonged abnormal posture or repetitive motion can eventually take its toll on the body, but there’s been a lot of fear mongering on this topic that isn’t necessary. Instead of making you paranoid about the physical effects of your device usage, like people weren’t staring down at books and newspapers for hours on end before we had them, take stock of how you’re feeling. If you notice tension or pain in your neck, shoulders, jaws, or even symptoms of nerve issues, like numbness or a pins and needles feeling down your arm, then this is definitely something to pay attention to and make some serious adjustments. If you’re not having any symptoms of a problem – no pain or other negative feelings around the upper body and head – then be mindful of your usage, but don’t think you need to completely change your habits.
While less screen time would probably do you some good, you can’t expect to go cold turkey, especially if a large portion of that usage is work related. Instead, try to make small adjustments and increase as you can and need to, to help your neck stay healthy. Take a break every 30 minutes to move and stretch your neck, head, and arms. Raise your phone, computer, or tablet to eye level instead of looking down at them. Keep your posture in check throughout, ensuring your spine is comfortable and in a neutral position.
You shouldn’t live in fear of text neck, just be mindful of how your body feels throughout, just like you should with any daily activity. Being aware of your body and posture while using any device can help reduce the risk of injury and pain.