National Posture Month: Stand Tall Against Text Neck

By Sara Butler

Text Neck

Technology is fantastic, but it has brought its fair share of troubles into the world. I’m not talking Skynet here (or maybe I am – you never know what’s out there!), but I’m speaking of cell phones and the lighting speeds at which teenagers (and adults) use them to text. I’ve seen some teens text so fast you need a high-speed camera to catch their fingers moving across the keys. It’s a skill I find both mesmerizing and a little terrifying -- does anyone know how to actually write anymore?

Now that I sound like your grumpy old neighbor who yells at kids to stay off the lawn, it’s time to get serious. Some may view the lightning-fast reflexes developed through texting as a good thing, but there’s a decidedly bad side-effect seen from looking down at your phone: “Text Neck.” Since May is National Posture month, all of us here at The Joint want to fill you in on the dangers of text neck and how you can avoid that long look from your chiropractor who is thinking “I told you so” next time you go in for an adjustment.

The Symptoms of Text Neck

Remember the movie Jerry Maguire in which the cute kid says “Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?” Well, he may have been a little off -- it’s more like 12 pounds on average (hey, we’ve got big brains that help us distinguish right from wrong, good from bad, and which emoji is appropriate to the situation!). For every inch you hang your head forward you add 10 pounds of weight to the load the muscles in your neck and upper back have to bear in order to support your big 12-pound head. So, hang your dome forward three inches? That’s like adding a 4-year-old to the top of your head for your neck and shoulders to support. And trust me -- you don’t want a 4-year-old anywhere near that noggin.

How does this impact you? Well, here are a few of the most classic symptoms of text neck:

  • Pain in the upper back
  • Tightness in the shoulder muscles
  • Neck soreness and pain
  • Chronic headaches

If you keep on keepin’ on that smartphone just like you normally would and ignore the signals your body is trying to send you, it can lead to more serious health consequences such as inflammation of the muscles, ligaments, and nerves of your neck and you could even develop arthritis. Seriously, arthritis! All that so you can text “LOL” to your BFF roughly 2,648 times a day? Is it really worth it? Just send a group message once explaining to all your contacts that you have a remarkably outstanding sense of humor and then leave the LOLs at home ;-). Sacrificing your health isn’t worth it.

Navigating Text Neck

Aside from the dangers to your spine, how in the heck do people navigate the world with their nose buried in their cell phone? When I see people walking down the street looking down and texting or updating their Facebook status with a picture of their feet on the sidewalk (because everyone on your friends list is interested in what you’re doing every second of the day, incidentally) I just start hearing the Looney Tunes music in my head. What if an ACME anvil fell from the sky? What if you walk right out into traffic? What if there’s a banana peel on the sidewalk? Walking down the street and being unaware of your surroundings is just plain dangerous. Didn’t you ever watch any of those afterschool specials??? You’ve become the living embodiment of Mr. Magoo.

Be engaged with the world around you by taking your nose out of your cell phone. Stand up straight when you walk and announce to the world that you are here and you are ready to kick some butt! Not only will it help your posture, it’ll probably also make you feel a bit better about yourself and keep you out of the path of those ACME anvils or falling pianos.

Step Away From the Cell Phone

If you find yourself cuddling at night with your cell phone because you don’t want to be without it, that may be a problem outside of the scope of expertise of your chiropractor. Seriously, get help -- your apps will be OK without you for seven to eight hours per night.

If you absolutely must use your cell phone, hold it up in front of you (while you’re not walking down the street) at eye level as much as you can. This is really true for any kind of handheld device from tablets to laptops. The point is you shouldn’t be bending your head forward to look at it.

Also, just plain take a break. The Kardashians will be there when you return. If you have to, utilize your phone to help you remember to take breaks every 20 or 30 minutes from your device. Use that break to stretch, walk around and find directions back to where you want to go because you weren’t listening when I said to not use it while \walking down the street and now you’re lost.

Only You Can Prevent Text Neck

I might be joking around a bit, but text neck is really something you should take seriously. If you’re already showing symptoms you need to have a serious talk with your chiropractor about what you can do to reverse any damage you may have sustained. A simple adjustment might be all it takes, but you should put yourself in the hands of a professional.

Happy Posture Month -- now stand up straight and walk like you know what you’re doing!