Increased Gadget Use Leading to “Text Neck,” Doctors Say

A new study from marketing agency Tecmark has found that people reach for their mobile phones at 1,500 times per week on average, and doctors say all that time spent staring down is leading to an epidemic of “text neck,” CBS News reported March 11.

This term for chronic neck pain is generally used to refer to problems caused by looking at not only phones, but also other electronic gadgets.

“While it is nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, individuals should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine and to avoid spending hours each day hunched over,” Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spinal surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, wrote in a study published in the journal Surgical Technology International late last year.

On average, the human head weights about 10 to 12 pounds. But the effect of gravity makes it feel like 27 pounds at only a 15 degree angle from the body. At a 60 degree angle — which is more common when people look at their smart devices — it’s as if the head is 60 pounds hanging off the neck.

“We see the aftermath of postural disturbances all of the time. People don’t realize that their posture is related to their digestion, hormone regulation, heart rate, blood pressure and breathing,” said Dr. Skylar Gemmer, clinic director at Life Force Chiropractic. “If people have a normal structure in their necks, their overall function and health is dramatically improved. That’s why we focus on the spine first just like Hippocrates said 2,500 years ago, he knew things then that science is just now discovering.”

Fighting Device-Related Immobility

Considering that bad spinal posture has been linked to more than just neck and back pain — leading to headaches, neurological complications, constipation, heart disease, and depression, according to multiple studies — it’s worth finding ways to improve how people use smart devices during both leisure and work time.

Simply attempting to keep one’s head up is a start, but can be difficult given the number of hours many people spend looking down at laptops and similar devices during work hours. Employers can be part of the solution by innovating in the office environment to better accommodate both good posture and necessary technologies.

Laptops are not ideal for long workdays, since they don’t allow the monitor to be raised to eye level while keeping the keyboard at a workable height. If employees must work on laptops, they should at least avoid staying in that position for extended periods of time.

An article from Entrepreneur at the end of February suggested “active seating” and walking stations that allow workers to keep moving even as they accomplish tasks on laptops and tablets.

And if employees must sit at a traditional desk, Entrepreneur advises, it’s worth paying for an ergonomic office chair: “A nice, supportive task chair is an investment that can pay dividends in health and well-being.”

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