How Your Smartphone May Be Hurting Your Neck

We are a nation of smartphone addicts.

From email to social media to games to music, we now use our smartphones daily to complete various everyday tasks.  In fact nearly two-thirds of American adults own a smartphone, with many relying on it as their only internet-connected device.

As a result, we have also become a nation of slouchers, hunchers and slumpers. And, it’s becoming a real pain in our necks.

“Text neck,” a term coined in 2008 by Dr. Dean Fishman to diagnose a teenager complaining of headaches and neck pain, refers to the resulting physical and medical issues that can arise from time spent leaning forward while sitting or standing to examine the tiny scrolling screen we hold in the palm of our hand.

We Were Not Designed to Text

But, how can using your smartphone be so dangerous?

The average human head weighs between 10-12 pounds when held in a neutral position, with your ears over your shoulders. But, as you bend your head forward, the pressure increases.  For every inch, you double the load on your neck.

By the time your chin has dropped to your chest while scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, you’re putting the equivalent of 60 pounds of pressure on your spine.  And, you were not designed to support that much weight on your neck.

Extended periods of holding the text neck position can lead to headaches and back pain and years of it can eventually damage your spine to the point of requiring surgery. Staying slumped can also reduce the capacity of your lungs and cause gastrointestinal problems by placing pressure on your organs.

When we consider a recent survey that reported 59% of smartphone owners use apps on their phones at least several times a day and 27% use them “continuously,” the potential for prevalent long-term neck and spine injuries becomes clear. Your smartphone is not the only culprit.  Video games, reading devices and laptops can all induce text neck.

Preventing Text Neck

So, other than getting rid of your devices (which we know you won’t do), how can you stop text neck from happening?

  1. Try to cut down on checking your smartphone and take frequent breaks when working with a laptop. Get up and stretch every 20 minutes or so.
  2. Bring your device up to eye level, rather than looking down at it.
  3. Use the range of motion of your eyes to look down at a phone rather than dropping your head.
  4. Regularly stretch your neck to keep the joints limber.

Conditions that were unheard of a decade ago like text neck and other long-term effects of prolonged smartphone usage can give us pause about whether these devices overall help or hinder our lives. Everything in moderation, as they say, and that should include texting.

Head and face pain has many causes, including symptoms related to disorders of TMJ (temporomandibular joint).  The TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of the Greater Washington, DC Area focuses on conditions of sleep apnea, TMJ disorders, as well as pediatric  and adolescent facial and airway development. Learn more at http://www.capitaltmjcenter.com/.