In today’s culture, people spend more time than ever in front of screens. Smartphones, tablets and computers are so ingrained in our everyday lives that we often don’t even notice the consequences of being glued to our tech — until it becomes painful.
“Text neck” is a real ailment that has become increasingly common. The term describes the neck strain, pain and headaches that result from hunching over a device for long periods of time. Your head weighs about 12 pounds, but when it is not supported fully by the spine, the weight of your head increases, putting additional strain on the neck and cervical spine. As the neck bends forward and down, the weight of the head may reach as many as 60 pounds! It’s easy to see how consistent use of a digital device could wreck your spine.
Discomfort from text neck can also radiate into the shoulders, arms and hands. Spending too much time looking down at a digital device can even lead to a pinched cervical nerve, causing pain and numbness in the arm and hand. In some cases, text neck can cause wear and tear on the spine and may even require surgery.
If you spend any part of your day working on a computer or using a tablet or smartphone, use these tips to avoid this uncomfortable and even painful condition.
Fix your posture. The best way to avoid text neck is to keep your spine and neck in proper alignment. Poor posture — particularly hunching over a device with your shoulders slumped and your chin jutting forward — causes strain on your shoulders and neck. Focus on keeping your back straight and your head situated squarely on your shoulders.
Give yourself a break. Take frequent breaks throughout the day, especially if you have a desk job that requires you to work on a computer all day long. Every hour, get up from your desk and stretch or walk around for a few minutes. If you’re reading, working or playing on a handheld device, take some time to put it down and give your neck a break. Every 20 or 30 minutes, put your device down and spend some time looking up and around you, or get up and complete a task around the house.
Keep your device at eye level. Whether you’re using a phone or working on your computer, keep your device at eye level so you won’t have to look down or bend forward to see it. This will help keep your neck in alignment with your spine.
Spend some time stretching. If your neck and shoulders begin to feel tight, take a break to stretch. Here are a few exercises you can do to stretch your muscles and relieve any built-up tension.
- Tuck your chin down toward your neck, then slowly raise it up toward the ceiling.
- Rotate your head to look over your left shoulder, then slowly turn your head to look over the right shoulder.
- Roll your shoulders in a clockwise direction, holding your arms down at your side. Repeat in a counterclockwise direction.
Keep your core strong. Consider your core — your abdominal and lower back muscles — the base or foundation of your body. A strong core is necessary to support the weight of your upper body, including your neck and head. Every day, spend a few minutes doing specific exercises to target your core muscles. Consider participating in regular yoga or Pilates classes, as these workouts promote good posture and a strong core.
If you suffer from persistent discomfort or pain in your neck or shoulders, contact orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Vivek Kushwaha today.