Do you do a double-take when you see somebody using a flip phone? If so, you’re not alone (and they are). Recently published statistics from Pew Research indicate that 77% of all Americans have smart phones, with the only group on the short side of 50% being those over the age of 65.
There’s been a remarkable increase in the use of connected technology overall, and for all the benefits that has provided, there have also been negative repercussions, including an epidemic of a neck and upper back malady that has come to be known as text neck.
Text neck is a term used to describe pain that comes from constantly looking down at an electronic device. An article in the professional journal The Spine Journal said that the position puts enormous pressure on the spine, which has evolved to remain in an upright neutral position with gaze straight ahead.
When a person looks down at a smart phone or tablet, they lean their head forward. At an average weight of 10 to 12 pounds, the head is roughly the equivalent weight of a bowling ball. When the neck and spine bend forward, the stress is increased, upping the impact on the neck to that of a 27-pound weight based on the average smart-phone user’s posture: the problem is exacerbated with a greater bend forward.
Standing upright would eliminate the problem, but that rarely happens.
If you’re shrugging about the issue and thinking that there are worse things than a sore neck, think again. The same study takes the issue one step further and looks at whether the use of smart phones has had actual physical impact … and it does indeed.
There has been a significant uptick in the number of herniated discs, spines out of alignment, and even the neck’s natural curve being reversed. Most concerning of all is the fact that these problems which are most commonly seen in people who are middle-aged or older are beginning to be seen in much younger people, including children as young as eight years old.
Text neck has the potential of leading to an increased need for spinal surgery as a result of improper development and growth of the spine.
Though smart phones are the subject of this particular study, all of the technological advances of the last several years have played a role in back and neck injuries.
Computers in the workplace are frequently placed without thought to ergonomics, forcing people to look down at monitors for extended periods of time. Though there are solutions available, including the use of monitor stands that allow the head to be kept in a neutral position, experts say that the best answer is simply to walk away.
Straighten up, stretch, and take a stroll away: it might be the healthiest thing you can do for your back.
If your technology habits are causing you pain and it won’t go away, there’s no reason to suffer. Contact our office to set up an appointment to discuss how we can help.