The Texting Neck Epidemic –Solutions to Prevent Dealing with Complications of Smart Phone Pain
The utilization of cell phones has reached unprecedented levels. Estimates as of 2012 concluded that more than 75% of the world population has cell phone subscriptions (1). To put that in perspective, the UN reported in 2013 that more people have cellphones than have toilets (2). In the United States, most of us do not know another adult that does not have a cell phone. Further, you are shocked if you see someone who is using a flip phone. The prevalence of smart phones is pervasive in the United States.
Smart phones have made our lives much more efficient, providing opportunities for us to take our email, entertainment, calendar, etc. with us wherever we go. Rarely are we ever more than a click away from accessing any information we want because of the mobile data plans. The benefits of the smart phones are substantial, unfortunately with these benefits come an increasing incidence of pain.
Fine motor skills required to handle the smart phone increase tension on the nerves increasing the frequency of disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome and De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Focusing on the screen of the smart phone leads to increased postural tension placed on the neck and shoulders as well. Fortunately, these episodes of pain are preventable with some minor postural cues and education.
The human head weighs approximately 13 pounds. Similar to the weight of a bowling ball. If the head is centered such that the ears line up immediately over the shoulders, than there is roughly 13 pounds of pressure on the spine. For every inch forward that the head leans when on your smart phone, you increase the tension to the neck by 10 pounds. What this does to the body is increased tension on the upper trap muscles of the shoulders and increases tension to the nerves of the arms. As we describe this posture, I am sure you are thinking about the posture you use to mess around on your phone. The chances are likely that you will notice that your head bends forward, as we described above, increasing tension on the neck and arms.
Instead of allowing your head to lean forward, the changes are simple to dramatically reduce the strain to the body. Looking straight ahead take a deep breath in. As you inhale, pull your shoulders back squeezing your shoulder blades gently. As you exhale, let your shoulders relax to a comfortable position. Lift the phone up towards your face at an angle that allows you to look at the phone without letting your head lean forward.