Are you addicted too to your cell phones? Does it feel like something important is missing when you are not carrying that highly smart I-know-everything-you-could-think-of gadget of yours? Well, you are not alone in this. A study showed that 79% of the United States population between 18 to 44 years of age have their cell phones with them almost every time with only 2% of wake-up time spent without them.
Now, let me tell you my real-life experience. One day when I woke up, I had a sudden onset of severe acute upper back pain. Even after a lot of thinking and recall, I could not figure out the possible reason behind it. I went to see my doctor, and after a thorough interview and assessment, he told me I had “texting neck”. I just could not understand what it meant. On seeing my confused expressions, he explained that it occurs due to hours of spending time on phones, laptops, and tablets etc. It is a kind of overuse injury. He also advised that if left untreated, it can lead to inflammation of neck ligaments, nerve irritation and improper curvature of my spine. This information was enough to get me worried.
The problem is not only limited to adults. Smartphones have enough reasons to have our kids hooked on them for gaming and watching videos. About 52% of the 0-8-year-old kids spend about 43 minutes a day on mobile devices. Texting neck usually affects upper back, shoulder region and if cervical (neck) region nerves are involved, it can lead to radiculopathy (numbness, tingling, pain radiation, and many more symptoms) and involvement of occiput region.
Ways to prevent it
We understand it is very difficult to stay without a cell phone and you will probably not return to our blog if we suggest you do that. There are some simpler ways to deal with it:
- Hold/keep your cell phone, laptop, and tablet in such a way that the screen is at eye level.
- Take frequent breaks, avoid working/staring at your screen for a long time.
- Stand up straight and maintain good posture. It is always good to stretch those muscles a bit.
- Flexible and strengthened neck and back muscles are able to bear extra stress.
Exercises you can do at your workstation
- CHIN TUCK-IN – Tuck your chin down to your chest, then slowly tilt your head back, chin towards the ceiling.
- NECK ROTATION – Slowly rotate neck on both sides.
- SHOULDER ROTATION – Shrug your shoulders and rotate them. Rotate 10 times each clockwise and anticlockwise. Consider this as one set and repeat it 5 times.
Texting neck can be efficiently managed by physical therapy including mobilization, posture correction, massage of soft tissues, taping techniques, and neck stabilization exercises.
The Sad part is, this is not the only side-effect of prolonged use of mobile devices. It was blamed for an increase in the number of pedestrian deaths in the US in the year 2011 as people used to text while walking. There also is “texting thumb” that causes repetitive strain injury during texting, and “iPad hand” aches and pains caused by swapping and typing on the tablet. Technology is great and has made life easier for sure, but as we know, nothing in ‘excess’ is good. So choose wisely, make the best use of it but avoid addiction.