Spending too much time looking down at a smartphone may be what’s causing the pain in your neck.
For many people, their smartphone is the first thing they see when they wake up and the last thing they check before falling asleep. Add in the hours in between texting and scrolling, and you’ll understand why so much looking down is making it hard to look back up.
The human neck is a pretty remarkable part of the body that isn’t though about often – at least until it hurts. Many people are the cause of their own neck pain by looking down at smartphones all day long.
“They come in complaining of neck pain, and when I ask them how much time do you spend on the computer or how much time do you spend texting, they usually give you a smile, and the smile means, yes, I spend a lot of time texting,” Dr. Kevin Khalsa, of The Bone and Joint Center, said.
Call it “Text Neck.”
Dr. Khalsa is an orthopedic spine specialist. He said poor posture takes the neck and spine out of alignment and puts an enormous strain on a very small portion of the anatomy.
“This part right here is what ends up getting an over strain injury from texting and having your neck in a flexed position,” he demonstrated.
When you stand correctly, your neck is holding up your head, which is similar to a 10 pound bowling ball. But the more you lean forward, the weight increases, and at the angle most look at their phones, that bowling ball has grown into a 60 pound boulder on your cervical spine.
“It’s like going to the gym,” Dr. Khalsa said. “When you hold the weights close to you, it’s much easier. But when you bring them out, it’s much harder.”
Over time, that wear and tear can lead to damage that needs surgery to repair. Or worse, neck pain that won’t respond to treatment.
“You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place where you don’t have surgery, but you have neck pain all day and physical therapy and injections aren’t helping you,” Dr. Khalsa explained. “So we’re trying to avoid people from getting to that point.”
Physical therapist Adrienne Fil showed NEWS10 ABC how to help yourself out of the hole you have dug yourself into.
First, try bringing your phone up to the level of your eyes instead of constantly looking down. Then, keep an eye on the clock.
“We usually advise people that 20 minutes, 30 at most, and they need to take a break from what they’re doing,” she said.
During that break, stretch out the muscles with gentle shoulder rolls, shoulder stretches against a corner of the room, and side neck stretches. But realize that Text Neck may be having an impact on other parts of the body as well.
“The way our muscles connect from our head all the way down, there’s actually a lot of core involved in maintaining good posture,” Fil explained. “If it’s not just thinking about my head being in alignment, it’s making sure my shoulders and abdomen are engaged as well.”
Even professionals see it in themselves.
“When I get caught up with text messages to people, with my social media, or if I end up binge watching anything, I definitely find myself, ‘oh no, I’m in this bad position,’ having to self-correct and do what I tell everyone else to do all day long,” Fil said.
“And we’re all at fault for that,” Dr. Khalsa said. “I myself find myself with neck pain after prolonged texting on the phone. It’s part of our social lives, our daily lives, and we can’t really get away from it.”
Text Neck is usually generational. Professionals are hearing of it in younger patients all the time.