Text Neck Syndrome is the term used for neck pain caused by repeated stress and pain due to use of a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. This has become a worldwide health concern and global epidemic. There are over 4 billion mobile devices in use around the world and the number continues to rise.
Over 75% of Americans own a mobile device, with 95% of that group being 18-29 year olds, while 53% own some form of tablet. Neck pain from use of a mobile device has been shown to be as high as 60% in certain populations. Ergonomic studies have shown that when the neck is in the neutral or normal upright position, there is about 10 pounds of force on it. When the neck is flexed forward to 45 degrees, as with looking down at a device, the force exerted reaches almost 50 pounds!
Text Neck develops due to the prolonged, repetitive postural changes placing stress on the neck and back. This affects the normal spinal curvatures as well as supporting ligaments, tendons, muscles, bones and joints. Stress on these structures can lead to arthritis, spinal malalignment and degeneration, disc compression and herniation, and ultimately muscle and nerve damage. Pain may be felt in the neck, back, shoulders, upper and lower arms, as well as the wrists. Other symptoms may include headaches and arm numbness or tingling. Although position change can limit stress to a particular area, there continues to be abnormal stresses whether in the standing, upright seated or semi-reclined positions.
Understanding the problem and prevention strategies are the best way to avoid Text Neck Syndrome. Ensure that the reading angle of your device is at eye level; if seated, keep your shoulders back and your head over your shoulders. Use pillows, tables or trays to support your arms and maintain better upright posture. Avoid excessive usage and take frequent breaks. Technology use is unavoidable for some; with this in mind, basic range of motion and stretching exercises should be performed routinely. But not all exercises work for everyone so consulting a physician for further guidance can be beneficial especially if you’ve noted any symptoms starting to occur.
Mark Tantorski, DO Premier Orthopaedics Spine Surgeon.
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