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Text neck: All you need to know + 3 exercises to treat it!

Correct posture, general fitness and strong muscles can help you treat this better!

Written by Aishwarya Iyer |Updated : July 12, 2018 12:01 PM IST

Internet and mobile phones have taken over our lives completely. In today's times, we can barely survive without our smartphones. Millennials will agree that most of their work too, is done through their phones. With this obsession with phones comes baggage full of ailments too. One of which is 'text-neck'.

According to a research published by Kenneth Hansraj in the National Library of Medicine, poor posture caused by constantly bending your neck towards your phone, can lead to wear-and-tear on the spine, which in extreme cases could also result in surgery. The study noted that smartphone users spend an average of 2- 4 hours a day hunched over while reading mails, browsing etc. That's a whooping 700 to 1,400 hours per year, the research says.

The study claims that a human head weighs about 5.45 kgs. As one keeps the neck bent for long, the pressure on the cervical spine keeps increasing. Imagine at a 15-degree angle the weight is about 12.27 kg- clearly a lot of weight! The more you bend over, the more pressure, leading to accumulating pressure on the spine tissue too. The longer you maintain this posture, the tissue gets sore. Apart from this, the study says that such posture can even reduce the lung capacity by as much as 30 percent.

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Even if you haven't heard of this term, you have surely felt it too! When hooked to the phone, laptop or tablet, we may ignore sudden neck pain or stiffness around the shoulder region. But beware as this could be a text neck condition setting in. It's a new ailment that is often initially ignored until it gets worse thereby requiring urgent medical attention.

What is text-neck?

"It is the term used for the damage caused to the neck from looking down using cell phones, tablets and other wireless devices too frequently. This problem is becoming increasingly common," explained Dr Shreyash Gajjar, Consultant and Unit Head, Arthroscopy and Sports Orthopaedics, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.

For those who spend hours constantly on their phone in a hunched back posture, there is immense pressure on their upper back or nape region. Importantly, this posture of bending the neck to look down does not occur only when texting.

"Over the years, one could have spent time in reading books but the problem with texting is that it adds one more activity on the daily basis that causes us to look down and out of habit one tends to do the same for long periods. This could over time cause significant damage to the cervical spine that could lead to chronic neck pain," added Dr Gajjar.

Symptoms

Stiff neck: soreness and difficulty in moving the neck usually persists when one tries to move the neck after being in one position for long.

Pain: can be localized to one spot or may be spread over an area. This is usually in the lower part of the neck. Can be described as dull aching or sharp or stabbing in extreme cases.

Radiating pain: there can often be radiation of pain to the shoulder and arm.

Muscular weakness: shoulder's region muscles are often weak.

Headache: severe muscle tightness can lead to tension-type headaches.

How common is Text Neck

70-80% of the population between the ages 18 and 44 use their cell phones for a long time during the day. According to Dr Gajjar, as high as 40% of users of modern gadgets suffer from text neck.

Unfortunately, most ignore the problem until it needs medical attention when the pain becomes unbearable.

So here's how you can treat it:

Take frequent breaks from cell phones and laptop. Set an alarm to get up and take a walk after every 30 mins.

Correct posture is important. Hold the phone at eye level and follow the same using other devices. Position the laptop/desktop at eye level which will avoid bending the head down.

If working in an office, make sure the screen is set up so that it is looking forward. Get an ergonomic assessment of the workstation if necessary.

Stand up straight.

Stretch neck and upper back regularly.

Engage in 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercises 5 times per week.

General fitness and strong muscles will help deal with physical/mental stress better.

When necessary, consult an Orthopaedic doctor/Physiotherapist for further advice.

But worry not! We give you 3 exercises that you must try to cure/ prevent text-neck:

1) The 'holy-nod'

This is one of the simplest exercises to treat text-neck. Nod a 'yes' and hold the bottom of the nod to make a double chin. Carefully, hold on the double chin nod for about 10 seconds, and then gradually release.

2) Exaggerated nod

This is something you would often see children doing (aimlessly, though). Just stand still or sit comfortably with your back straight. Look at the ceiling and keep your jaws wide open. Now move your neck further back, say an inch or so (as much as you can). Hold the position for about 10 seconds, followed by slowly bringing your neck forward and finally to the position you started in.

3) Downward facing dog (Adho mukha svanasana)

downward facing dog

One of the most beneficial asanas or exercises, the downward facing dog posture is too good! All you have to do is, start on all fours. Tuck your toes together, lift your hips high. Drop your head completely, letting it face the ground completely. Three deep breathes, and you're good to go!

Reference:

1: Hansraj KK. Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surg Technol Int. 2014 Nov;25:277-9. PubMed PMID: 25393825.

Image Source: Shutterstock

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