Although this affects everyone, at this time of year I do see an increase in treating our younger generation as they start to study hard for end of year/school exams. Most of them complain about upper back, neck and shoulder pain and from their consultations I find that most of their revision is done sat on their beds, or on the floor hunched over a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
According to the Text Neck Institute (yes there is such a thing), set up by Dr Dean Fishman a Chiropractor from Florida “Text Neck’ is a world-wide health concern, affecting millions of all ages and from all walks of life. Of the 6 billion people in the world, over 4 billion have mobile phones. Texting has become the dominant form of communication and Americans on average spend 2.7 hours per day communicating and socializing on their phones, and even more time looking down at their mobile devices for web searching and so many other uses”.
Although Dr Fishman primarily studies people using hand held devices I believe the same posture is adopted when we use our laptops on our knees, floor or anywhere we are bent over and compromise our posture.
The syndrome known as Text Neck is a repetitive stress injury where your head is hung forward and you are looking down at your device for long periods of time. As in the picture above, the more we tilt our head the heavier it becomes and the more pressure we put on it and its surrounding structures. When our head is in is constantly in forward flexion our posture changes and it affects the cervical spine, supporting ligaments, tendons and muscles as well as bony segments. We start to get pain in our neck, shoulders, upper back and headaches. If untreated it could lead to more serious problems such as disc compression, herniation, muscle damage, spinal misalignment, on set of early arthritis and even loss of lung volume capacity!
So what can we do about it? It’s not like we are going to give up using them altogether as they are convenient and offer many benefits, but there are some simple things we can do to help ourselves:-
Change how you use your device – place a laptop on a desk or table, sit up straight and try and keep the screen in line with your eye line. Put your mobile phone at an angle you can look straight at it.
MOVE – don’t sit for hours on end, set an alarm every 45 minutes and when it goes off get up and move about.
Get a massage, I know I would say that, but it can relieve the stress and tension you are putting on your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints and will also give you an hour away from your desk or phone!!
Exercise – a great stress reliever, strengthens and conditions for muscles and also gives you time out. Try these exercises specifically to counterbalance “Text neck”! Lie face down on the floor with your arms by your side. Take your shoulder blades back and down your back (if this is hard – image them doing it). Extend your head up, the lift shoulders and chest. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly lower down in reverse order – chest, shoulders, then the head. Repeat 10 x Snow angels against a wall! Stand with your back, heels and back of head against a wall. Bring arms to 90 degree angle with arms as far back to the wall as possible. Shoulder blades back and down. Slide your arms over your head keeping them on the wall. Once over your head lower the arms down so elbows are flush against the wall. Do slowly and repeat 10 x
These exercises may be tricky but persevere the more you do them the more they become a habit and the more benefit you will get. Don’t forget what may seem like a short term inconvenience will provide long term benefits and it will only take a matter of a few minutes per day.