Columns/Opinion, Healthy Living

‘Text neck’ is a thing — here’s how to avoid it

That crick in your neck you get after looking at your smartphone for a long time has a name — text neck.
The term was coined in 2014 by Florida chiropractor Dean Fishman. It’s an overuse or repetitive stress injury to the neck caused by keeping your head in a forward and downward position for extended periods of time.
Smartphone users spend an average of 2-4 hours a day texting, emailing, gaming and checking their social media sites. (In fact, you’re probably reading this blog post while hunched over a mobile device right now.)
For school-age kids and teens, it’s nearly 2-4 times more than that.
The poor posture caused by keeping your head in a forward, flexed position can lead to muscle strain, herniated discs and pinched nerves.
“Keeping your head in a downward position for an extended period of time can put pressure on the intervertebral discs and more strain on the muscles of your neck,” said Matt DeGarmo PT, MBA, WCC, the director of rehab services at Mon Health Stonewall Jackson Hospital in Weston, WV. “Children and adults alike are spending more and more time using their phones with their heads in this forward flexed position, and in the long run, this can lead to fairly significant postural deformities.”

Symptoms of Text Neck
Some common symptoms of text neck, such as immediate soreness and discomfort, can be obvious but other symptoms may include:
— Unilateral neck, shoulder and back pain
— Tingling or numbness in the arm(s)
— Stiff neck or trouble lifting your head
— Arm and/or hand weakness
For those experiencing some degree of pain, Matt suggests an active stretching program. Try these cervical ranges of motion stretches 2-3 times a day to help alleviate text neck symptoms:
— Tuck your chin to your chest (flexion); hold for 5-10 seconds
— Look up at the ceiling (extension); hold for 5-10 seconds
— Bend your ear to your shoulder, both sides; hold for 5-10 seconds
— Turn your chin to your shoulder, both sides; hold for 5-10 seconds
— Improving your posture is also important. You can strengthen your muscles and improve your posture through exercises like yoga and pilates.
However, the best way to treat this affliction is to remember to look up frequently when you’re on your device.
“Looking up every few minutes is the best way to prevent this type of condition,” Matt said.
If the pain is severe or lasts for a long period of time, make an appointment with your physician as physical therapy treatment may be necessary.

This column is provided by Mon Health.