Text Neck: Is Your Head on Correctly?
Sep 02, 2016 02:14AM
By Risa Sloves
Will younger generations these days suffer more from early onset degenerative arthritis in their necks as a result of their frequent use of laptops, cell phones, iPads, Kindles, Gameboys and other mobile devices? Or is this prediction already a current reality? The term “text neck” is now being used as even young children are suffering from conditions related to repetitive stress in their necks due to using these devices for hours every day. Add this to the incorrect wearing of backpacks, which are usually worn slung over one shoulder or hanging down too low, and we are creating a perfect storm for children. The undue stress placed upon their spines and nervous systems will affect their structure, function and physiology.
The importance of good posture does more than just impress our mothers. The spine is made up of 24 vertebrae and, when aligned and functioning properly, it is designed to resist the heaviest of loads. With good posture, our ears should be aligned with our shoulders, which should be retracted. When we look at the spine from the side, the neck should have a normal curvature like the letter “C” with the convexity toward the front of the neck. With “text neck”, the normal neck curvature is lost and may be straight or even reversed; this then can cause symptoms over time, including neck or shoulder pain, headaches, and premature disc degeneration and arthritis. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that abnormal spinal health and posture leads to an imbalance in hormones and even reduced lung expansion and digestion.
Research conducted by Dr. Kenneth Hasraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, was published in 2014 in the journal Surgical Technology International showing that repetitive poor posture of the head and neck caused low testosterone, reduced serotonin and increased cortisol levels. Stress on the spine from looking down at a cell phone or other device has devastating short- and long-term health effects. The average head weighs 10-12 lbs. The study evaluated the effects of this forward head and neck flexion when using cell phones. Hasraj found that when the head was flexed forward at 60 degrees to look at a mobile device, the effective weight of the head increased to 60 lbs.
“For a teenager with their head down two to four hours daily, that’s up to 300,000 pounds of stress over 5,000 hours during high school,” explains Hasraj.
Beyond spinal and muscle injuries, improper posture influences all aspects of human health through the endocrine system. Good posture increases proper hormone function and empowers individuals. As technology continues to increasingly govern societal functions, the need for physicians who positively influence posture grows. Unfortunately, most of society still falsely believes that good posture is more of a cosmetic issue than a health issue. Because of this, awareness and education are critical to making changes; chiropractic physicians are the key players in positively influencing individual’s lives with regard to structure and function.
Minimizing the Damage
When possible, minimize the use of technology by setting time limits and taking breaks. Sit up straight and avoid leaning forward with the head and neck to maintain proper posture when using technology. When sitting, place a pillow or even a backpack on the lap to rest arms and bring the device closer to eye level to reduce neck flexion.
Other tips include doing regular spinal stretching and exercise to avoid tight muscles and stiff joints. Also make technology work by using talk-to-text functions when possible.
Risa Sloves, DC, DICCP, has been practicing for 27 years. She is one of nine chiropractic physicians in Connecticut with a board certification in pediatric and maternity. She practices with her husband, Dr. Mark Joachim, at their office Associates In Family Chiropractic and Natural Health Care in Norwalk. She can be reached at 203-838-1555. See ad, page 4.