"Text Neck": The Fix Is in the Foundation
Freeze. Don't move a muscle. As you read these words, notice the placement of your head – are you leaning into the page or the screen? What about your shoulders – are you hunched over a magazine or electronic device? Do a quick self-assessment: How does your current posture compare with ideal posture?
If you're like most people, you tilt your head when you read or use a smartphone or other electronic device, when you're at your desk at work, and pretty much any time you're examining something closely. The trouble is, smartphone use has dramatically increased the frequency and duration of this activity, particularly among young people. Some are referring to the resulting poor posture as "Text Neck".
The human head weighs about 10-12 pounds when in a neutral position: balanced between the shoulders, chin level, and eyes gazing forward, shoulders and shoulder blades retracted. In a study, Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, found that this weight – and the resulting load on the spine – increases dramatically when the head flexes forward: "As the head tilts forward, the forces seen by the neck surge to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees."1The long-term consequences of a tilted-head posture, according to Dr. Hansraj, are incrementally increased stresses about the cervical spine that could lead to early wear, tear, degeneration and possibly surgery.
"People spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over, reading and texting on their smartphones and devices," Dr. Hansraj says. "Cumulatively, this is 700 to 1,400 hours a year of excess stresses seen about the cervical spine. It is possible that a high-school student may spend an extra 5,000 hours in poor posture."
The obvious answer to what some are calling an "epidemic" of poor posture isn't very practical – people aren't going to use their phones less. Strengthening exercises and mindfulness of one's posture can help alleviate some of the strain, but it's also important to look down the entire kinetic chain to ensure the neck has a stable foundation to start from. When posture is already poor, the spine can't handle stress the way it could if fully supported. The force imposed from the increased weight of the head borne by the spine in a hunched or leaning posture is exacerbated by the stress imposed from below.
Ask your chiropractor to evaluate your posture and discuss a course of chiropractic treatment that could alleviate postural stresses and the subsequent pain and dysfunction.
Dr. George Thompson
49 Mtn. Lodge Road
Washingtonville, NY 10992