“Text Neck” and Cell Phone-Induced Pain
When we spend so much time leaning down over our phones, we shift our heads out of their natural alignment. Medical experts have coined the term “text neck” to refer to this condition, but it’s more traditionally known as forward head posture.
This condition can have severe implications on the body. While the average adult head only weighs 10-12 pounds, every degree we lean our heads forward puts an additional amount of pressure on our cervical spines (section of the spine above the shoulders). In fact, the research shows that when we bend our heads forward 60 degrees, we put 60 pounds of pressure on our spines. This additional pressure strains our neck and upper back muscles and can lead to pinched nerves, chronic pain, and even headaches and depression.
Additional Negative Effects of Cell Phones
Cell phones don’t just hurt our posture. In fact, there are several other negative side effects of being on your phone too frequently.
- Increased stress levels – Our smartphones are constantly buzzing and sending us notifications. Extensive exposure to these distractions has been shown to have a negative impact on our stress levels.
- Increased illness – Our phones are germy. In one study, researchers found that our phones carry more bacteria and disease than a toilet seat. When we’re constantly fiddling with our phones and putting them up to our ears, we become exposed to those germs, and they enter our bodies.
- Increased risk of eye problems – Staring at the small, lit-up screens is bad for our eyes. The more we look at our phones, we the more we strain our eyes and increase the risk of hurting our vision.
What to Do About It
The most obvious solution to reduce cell phone-induced pain is to cut back on cell phone usage. Of course, the increasingly large role cell phones play in our lives may make cutting back seem like a daunting task. However, there are some great apps to facilitate this process.
- BreakFree is an app that monitors your cell phone usage to make you conscious of your habits. By being aware of how frequently you are on your phone, you are more likely to cut back on unnecessary usage.
- Checky is a similar app to BreakFree in that it keeps track of how many times you check your phone to keep you conscious of your behavior.
- Forest encourages you to cut back on phone usage by planting a virtual tree upon request. If you want to see the tree grow, you can’t touch your phone for 30 minutes.
- Freedom lets you block websites for a designated amount of time. Not only does this encourage less phone usage, it can also help with productivity.
Another method for reducing cell phone-induced pain is to hold your phone at eye level. Fortunately, there’s an app for that too. The Text Neck Institute’s Text Neck Indicator flashes a green light in corner of your phone when it’s held at an appropriate viewing angle, and a red light when the angle needs to be adjusted.
Finally, implementing posture-conscious activities into your lifestyle can also provide relief when suffering from “text neck” and cell phone-induced pain. For example, yoga and Pilates develop the muscles essential for good posture. Further, visiting a chiropractor can help by readjusting your spinal alignment.
[Related: Overcoming Pain from Poor Posture]
Cell phone-induced pain is not an uncommon condition for people in today’s mobile-centric world. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent and reduce this pain and the other symptoms of “text neck.” At the end of the day, be aware of your cell phone usage and posture. As a rule of thumb, your ears should be aligned with your shoulders, and your shoulder blades should be tucked into your back.
What are some ways you’ve noticed pain from your cell phone? Have you been able to do anything about it? Let us know.
PainPathways is the first, only and ultimate pain magazine. First published in spring 2008, PainPathways is the culmination of the vision of Richard L. Rauck, MD, to provide a shared resource for people living with and caring for others in pain. This quarterly resource not only provides in-depth information on current treatments, therapies and research studies but also connects people who live with pain, both personally and professionally.