First was the threat of Blackberry Thumb.
Then “ the risk of cancerous tumors from cell phone exposure.
And now, adolescent smartphone users face the latest mobile health threat: text neck.
Never heard of it? Well, don’t ROTFL just yet. This a real medical problem, especially in young adults.
Otherwise known as forward head posture, text neck has caused many mobile users to report neck strain, headaches and pain the shoulders, arms and hands.
If the neck is stretched forward for a long enough period of time “ as is the case for teenagers who hunch over their phones sending thousands of texts a month “ natural curvature of the neck could potentially reverse, causing severe pain, discomfort and the need for medical attention, said Dr. Nicole Lederman of Dallas-based wellness institution Parker University. Since the average head weighs around 10 to 12 pounds, the longer you strain your neck, the harder it has to work to hold that weight, resulting in extra pressure on the disc and ligaments.
And since Americans don't seem to want to stop texting anytime soon, that risk can only go up. U.S. texters sent out 196.9 billion texts per month in 2011, up from 12.5 billion in 2006 “ a 1,475 percent increase. (The Wireless Association) A 2010 Nielson study found that teen females text more than any other group, sending and receiving more than 4,000 texts per month.
Dr. Lederman, Associate Professor at Parker University, says many of the cases they see are adolescent patients with neck discomfort. Lederman performs chiropractic adjustments on her pediatric patients, and says the neck is one of the most easily injured parts of a child's upper body.
“What many parents don't realize is that their children are hunched over their phones for a large part of the day, and that takes a very real physical toll on the child's growing body, Lederman said. As I ™ve told many of my patients and their parents, the best way to avoid the discomfort associated with ˜text neck ™ is to limit the time spent looking down at their phone.
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) lists the following tips to avoid ˜text neck ™:
- Sit up straight with your chest out and your shoulders back.
- Instead of looking down, bring your mobile device up to eye level.
- Rather than dropping your head forward when looking down, tuck your chin into your chest.
- If you use your phone for long periods of time, purchase an external keyboard.
- Resist the urge to use your mobile device while in bright sunlight. Straining to see the screen shifts the pressure from the spine to the muscles that hold up the head.
- For frequent texters, perform some simple hand stretches using a stress ball.