In 2019, mobile is king. None of us walk very far without having our mobile devices right there with us. Whether it be a cell phone, tablet, smart watch, or even a portable gaming system, we all stay connected quite regularly. While this portability is definitely a convenience, it comes at a cost if we are not using it properly. Several years ago, a Florida chiropractor, Dr. Dean L. Fishman coined the phrase “text neck.” Today in my practice, I see several patients with this condition. The scariest part of all of this is that the majority of patients suffering with this situation are teens and young adults. It is quite common for me to see patients while waiting, sitting and using their phone to browse social media, watch videos, or text friends. However, the neck is frequently flexed almost to 90° perpendicular to the mid back. This creates a substantial amount of strain on both the neck, mid back, and most importantly the nervous system itself. Because of the fact that your brain is contained in your skull, excessive neck flexion causes tension when the brain is forced forward creating an upward tugging in the spinal cord. Nerves hate tension. They function optimally when there is slack in the system. Moving the head back toward the center of gravity and taking the flexion away will restore that slack. The answer seems easy, but frequent repetition of this flexion creates a habit, and also changes the structure of the spine, creating a forward curve (kyphosis) in the neck instead of the natural backwards one (lordosis). Long term kyphosis in the neck is linked with pain, headaches, arm pain, shoulder pain and earlier degenerative changes to the discs and bones in the neck.
How do you change this? One of the easiest ways to minimize “text neck” is to limit the time spent on our mobile devices. However, I am a realistic person, and I realize that mobile device usage is going up, not down. So I tell my patients, “Phone to face, not face to phone.” Use your arms and hands to elevate your device to a level somewhat near your head, and then use a downward gaze to look at what you are doing. This should minimize the flexion of the neck, and keep the biomechanical stress, pain and subsequent degenerative changes away. Be sure to perform stretching movements of the neck daily without assisting with your hands, focusing on side bending (lateral flexion), turning side to side (rotation), and pulling neck backward and giving yourself a double chin (retraction). You can also add looking up to the ceiling (extension), but I have my patients avoid chin-to-chest (flexion) stretching for the reasons above.
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Keep working toward great health! – Dr. Craig