Is Your “Text Neck” Affecting Your Health?
Many of us spend our days typing, swiping and tapping not realizing the damage mobile phones are causing to overall health and wellbeing.
Though you may think texting is harmless, in the last few years I’ve noticed an influx of patients coming in to see me for various “digital disabilities” like “text neck” and “cell phone elbow”. The sad part: many of them are still in their teens!
What’s the fuss over “Text Neck”?
“Text neck” has become a buzzword in the health field. It’s used to describe neck pain and damage from looking down at one’s cell phone, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long. It’s also considered a form of Anterior Head Syndrome (AHS).
What is Anterior Head Syndrome, you ask?
AHS is an acquired, primary structural spinal condition. It occurs when the head is held in a forward position, causing it to put a stress load on the neck and more hazardously the rest of the spine.
In a prolonged period of time, this may be the cause of many health issues such as frequent headaches, neck strain, and even reduced blood flow to the brain. In addition, it can add up to thirty pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine. Not good.
Though mobile devices are one of the largest contributors to Anterior Head Syndrome, there are other reasons people end up with “text neck”.
Below are 10 things that contribute to Anterior Head Syndrome and 10 solutions to minimize its impact on your health:
10 Things That Contribute To Anterior Head Syndrome with Solutions
- Birth Trauma: Birth can be quite traumatic, especially when forceps and suction cups are involved! The delicate structures of an infant’s neck are often strained during the birthing process resulting in abnormal function of the spine and nervous system. SOLUTION: Chiropractors are trained to help even the tiniest of humans! I highly suggest bringing newborns to a Doctor of Chiropractic to have their spine checked. This will help reduce abnormal body mechanics and improper nerve functions and allow your child to start their days free of negative stressors.
- Previous Car Accidents: Patients will often tell me: “It was only a little fender bender. I didn’t have to go to the hospital or anything….” Not many people realize the cumulative effects of mild whiplash on the neck. We do collect the consequences of these impacts in our bodies. SOLUTION: Any time you have any kind of ‘abnormal’ driving incident, which includes even the most minuscule whiplash; it is important to get checked immediately by your chiropractor! Chiropractors are trained to detect and correct misalignment and strains on the spine and can help make sure the body heals properly from the injury. Always remember the weight of your head and the impact it has on the nervous system and spinal column!
- Sport and Work-Out Injuries: Thinking back to all the times in our lives when we have participated in any physical activities, we don’t usually consider an injury-free game to be any cause for worry, but sports are strenuous and whether we’re hitting a soccer ball with our foreheads, or falling on the ice from skating; athletes and leisure players should be checked frequently to ensure abnormal movement patterns are not created. SOLUTION: You’ve guessed it…See your chiropractor on a regular basis. I’m sure they will love to hear about your enthusiasm for the game while helping you free your spine of subluxation and prepare you for the next!
- Bad Posture At Work: Nowadays, most people are seated while at work. Think about the amount of time your body is in the seated position; while you’re on your transit to work and while you’re at work and sometimes, even, while you’re exercising. This timeline doesn’t allow much time in extension for the body to counteract all that time in flexion. SOLUTION: Standing desks are a great way to allow your posture to elongate while you’re being productive with your work tasks. Being able to alternate from standing to sitting throughout the day is key to more core engagement.
- Bad Posture At Home: The end of the day, when we get to go home and rest, are you scrunched up on the couch while enjoying a good series on Netflix? Or are you using your laptop in bed propped up on cushions surfing the internet for hours? These seemingly simple activities can actually be causing a huge strain on your spine. SOLUTION: Take note of your habits at home, acknowledge where your body leans when you’re not paying attention. Try to sit properly on the couch and try to move and get up often. Make sure you invest in a proper computer setup at home too, your body will thank you!
- Lack of Upper Body Strengthening Exercises: Not training the upper body to be strong enough to fair daily tasks leaves many people at a disadvantage. Doing simple upper body strengthening exercises to build resilience in the shoulders, chest, and back will guide your body into holding better posture and help it during our everyday tasks. SOLUTION: Take some time during your day to practice some upper body strengthening and stretching exercises. You don’t have to train like Arnold Schwarzenegger to feel like you’re making progress in helping your body but, you do have to put in work!
- Lack of Proper Core and Functional Movement: This includes all of what might be considered as the ‘basics’; being able to do squats, lunges, lift, etc. All of this is seen in our ability to bend forward to pick up something on the ground or unload the laundry machine and not have your back seize-up. It’s all about ensuring we have functional movements to be able to complete the daily tasks in our lives. SOLUTION: Working to strengthen our cores (which includes all the muscles in the middle section of our bodies) will make a big difference for all basic movements; some of which we aren’t even aware of!
- Lack of Overall Daily Movement: It’s great if you reach the 10 000 step count during the day but this should be part of the basic exercises and movements we are encouraging our bodies to do! SOLUTION: Keep moving and keep track of your movements! A trusty notebook never goes out of style! If you want to track how many steps you’re taking every day to help encourage yourself; looking into a pedometer, which can be kept at the hip, is a great first step (get it?)
- Bad Sleeping Position: Adopting a healthy sleeping position will truthfully make the world of difference for your sleep and your spine! Sleeping on our stomachs past a certain age is not so wise; our spines are less flexible and while we’re in that position, our bodies are put into a state of stress while we’re supposed to be resting. SOLUTION: Try falling asleep on your back or sleeping to your side with a pillow between your legs. Having a good pillow and a bed that is not too firm or too soft will support your body into a proper state of rest. Think about it, we spend at least 8 hours in our beds every night…this is more time than we spend in our cars so, it is vital that we make sure we are offering ourselves the very best comfort.
- And last but not least, TEXTING. I always shake my head when I people neck-bent into their phones. Don’t they know that’s what causes text neck?! While I’m not going to tell you to get rid of your phone, I am going to tell you to get rid of your bad posture! Instead of lowering our gaze to see our phone screens, our phones should be heightened to meet our gaze. This will help put less of a strain on our necks and nervous system. SOLUTION: Keep yourself level-headed. If you need to look at your phone, bring it up to meet your eye level. Your posture and physical well-being should not be put in jeopardy for word games on your mobile device.
There you have it, 10 solutions to help you maintain good posture, avoid Anterior Head Syndrome, and maintain a properly functioning nervous system.
“Take good care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live” –Jim Rohn