Walking into the grocery store, narrowly avoiding the person with their head buried in their phone, wondering what could possibly be so important for them to not pay attention to people around them, I had a thought strike me. Why are we so consumed by technology? What harm are people doing to themselves by looking constantly down into their phone? Do they know that if they keep doing that eventually their neck will stay that way? Do they care?
If they don’t care now, they will in a few short years when looking down constantly finally takes it toll on them.
Something so innocuous as looking down to read a text can be as bad for you as slipping and falling, or getting into a car accident. It doesn’t seem like it should be, and to say it sounds crazy but stop and think about it for a minute. If you wreck your car one time, you go through the initial phase of the injury, the acute phase, have your time in rehabilitation, and hopefully in 6-8 weeks you are released from active care and set to take on the world, supposedly pain and injury free. It’s all good right? Sure it is, after all if you can’t feel it, there isn’t a problem, right?
Let’s think about this for a second. How many times a day does your phone ding telling you somebody sent you a text? Is it 10, maybe 45, or maybe its more than 100. Seeing some of the people coming through the office doors, the 100 plus answer isn’t too far fetched. Now lets do some math here for a minute, if you get 100 messages a day for an entire year you are talking about 36,500 text messages. 36,500 times you wrench your neck all the way down to check your phone. Think about that. It may only be for a second or two, but you take your neck into the end range of motion repeatedly 36,500 times you are bound to have a problem eventually. Let’s take this out even further. If at 100 times a day for a year gets you to 36,500 times, lets multiply this out to 5 years and you get 182,500 text messages. 182,500 times you pull the phone out of your purse or pocket , look down and read it, put it back in your pocket and keep moving on until it happens again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
182,500 times. 365,000 times. A million times. Whatever it takes to understand how this can become a problem.
By constantly putting your head and neck in this position you change your center of gravity and put a lot more pressure on your spine and in particular your neck. It may only be a second or two, but it is enough time that if done enough can cause serious damage over time.
The best way to demonstrate this I can give to you is to take a bowling ball and hold it in close to your body. It should be fairly ok to do. Not a lot of strain other than the weight of the bowling ball. Now take the bowling ball and hold it out away from your body. It can be done, but you start to strain a lot sooner than with it in close to your body. Is that by itself causing you damage? No it’s not. But do it repeatedly for a length of time, your muscles will get extremely tired and eventually you will cause a lot of damage to your shoulders.
People are calling it text neck, and it is starting to show up regularly in the office. It is the repetitive motion of looking down at your phone, or working at a computer station that sits below your line of sight, or anything that has you looking down. It was called postural syndrome at one point in time, and it was something you would see in school aged kids and adults who what had desk jobs that kept them looking down all the time. The difference in the two is the area of concern, text neck is focusing on the neck while postural syndrome was usually the space between the shoulders.
Physically with Text Neck, you can change the structure of your cervical spine. You can reverse the curve and change the motion in there altogether. This will leave you prone to headaches, nausea, dizziness, stenosis, arthritis, numbness, tingling, and a plethora of other symptoms that are directly related to it.
Seems like a stretch to get all of that from looking down at your phone, but it can happen. Remember it is from prolonged usage. Looking down many times in a day can cause the weakness that leads to all of this. Looking down at the computer screen for a long amount of time can do the same thing. The biggest irony in me writing about this is looking constantly down at the screen as I type this. I feel my neck tensing up as I type this, knowing full well that if I continue to do this without taking a break I will regret it later.
Knowing how to take care of a certain ailment helps out in the long run. Even if it is something very simple, as long as it accomplishes what you are trying to do, that is ok. When working with text neck, the first thing you have to do is to realize it is happening. Usually the first thing you catch yourself doing is looking down even when you aren’t looking at something in front of you. You are designed to keep your eyes on the horizon, and to be able to look out in front of you instead of on the floor beneath you. Whenever you realize this the best thing to do is stop whatever it is you are doing, look straight up roll your shoulders back and down, and take a slow ten count. You can slow your breathing down and take really deep breaths while doing it, it’ll help to prolong your stretch. I recommend doing this every couple of hours or at least while you realize you are doing. This will help to alleviate the discomfort throughout the day.
Long term recovery from this has a good prognosis. If you take care of yourself by getting adjusted, hydrating, and regularly taking a short break to stretch this won’t become an ongoing lingering issue.
Think about this every time that little chime goes off.