You may find this hard to believe:
How the Use of Smartphones and Muscular Pains Are Connected
Weeks ago, in public transport, on my way to the mall, I saw a teenage boy looking downwards at his smartphone which was held resting on his thigh.
Few minutes into the journey, he was rubbing and slightly rotating his neck left, and right looking confused, one could tell from his facial expression he was wondering why he was experiencing discomfort. Little did he know it was associated with the use of his smartphone.
We have discovered a bad habit associated with the use of smartphones and laptops which unfortunately takes a toll on a person’s health.
Apart from the COVID19 pandemic, poor posture and neck strain is another problem affecting youths and young adults caused by the incessant use of smartphones which is called the Text Neck Syndrome.
WHAT IS TEXT NECK SYNDROME?
Text neck is a term coined to describe repeated stress injury and pain in the neck resulting from excessive watching or texting on handheld devices over a sustained period of time.
It is a cause for increasing concern especially with children and young adults given their greater propensity to mobile phone usage.
The term ‘Text Neck’ was coined by Dr. DL Fishman, a US chiropractor. This condition is a growing lifestyle and health condition with the constant growth in the mobile user population all over the world.
Apart from neck pain, it can also cause shoulder pain, upper back pain, headaches, and increased thoracic kyphosis (a deformity in the normal position of the spinal bones associated with the neck and chest region).
In case you are wondering, yes, the way we handle our smartphones can cause severe pain. That constant headache you are having could be connected.
SYMPTOMS OF TEXT NECK SYNDROME
The most common presentation of Text Neck is neck pain, stiffness, and soreness. The main symptoms include;
- Stiff neck: Soreness and difficulty in moving the neck are usually present when trying to move the neck after long usages.
- Pain: Can be localized to one spot or maybe diffused over an area, the usually lower part of the neck. Can be described as dull aching or can also be sharp or stabbing in extreme cases.
- Radiating pain: This can often be radiation of pain into the shoulders and arms.
- Muscular weakness: Shoulders muscles namely, trapezius, rhomboids, and shoulder external rotators are often weak.
Others include; Early-onset arthritis, Spinal degeneration, Disc compression, Muscle weakness, and (but not limited to) Loss of lung capacity.
HOW DOES TEXT NECK SYNDROME OCCUR?
Flexing the head forward to use a smartphone affects the spine directly.
Tilting the head forward to 15 degrees places about 9.08 kg of force on the neck which is almost equivalent to 9bags of 1kg semolina placed at the back of the neck.
This increases to 18.16kg at 30 degrees, 22.25kg at 45 degrees, and 27.24kg at 60 degrees.
Damage caused by untreated text neck can be similar to occupational overuse syndrome or repetitive stress/strain injury.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE TEXT NECK SYNDROME
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO TREAT TEXT NECK SYNDROME?
Prevention is essential as the following suggestions should be kept in mind while using smartphones or other handheld devices:
- Avoid excessive usage and take frequent breaks.
- Avoid prolonged static postures.
- Position the device such that it reduces stress both on the head/neck and the upper extremities.
- Avoid high repetitions of movements such as prolonged typing or swiping.
- Avoid holding large or heavy devices in one hand for a long duration.
In acute cases, pain relief is the main goal. It can be achieved by:
- Regular neck movements: rotations and side bending
- Ice/heat packs
- In extreme chronic cases or persistent pain, consult a certified physician.
If you have text neck syndrome, do ensure you start taking measures to rehabilitate yourself when it comes to handling your smartphone.
The next time you see someone guilty of holding his/her phone in a bad posture, endeavor to share with him/her this information.