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Why Tech Neck Is Dangerous, and How to Fix It

By Dr. Molly Casey

Danger of Text Neck

Avenues of communication have changed drastically over the years as technology has continued to explode. Texting is something nearly everyone does and for many they do a lot. Would it be surprising to learn that texting can have significant ramifications on your spine and ultimately your health? Consistent improper texting form can absolutely do just that -- but how? Let’s first discuss anatomy then we’ll get into “text neck” as it was originally called -- though it’s now more commonly referred to as tech neck -- and the common anatomical changes seen in those who text improperly for consistent periods of time.

The System

Let’s look at the correlation between the spine and your health. Your level of health is determined by the functioning of your nervous system -- your brain, spinal cord, and the associated nerves. Your brain sends messages down the spinal cord and out the nerves to every cell, system, structure, and organ in your body. These same cells, systems, structures, and organs send messages back through the nerves up the spinal cord and to the brain. This is your communication loop and you live your entire existence through it. When it is interfered with in any way, at some level functioning is less than optimal and your experience is less than optimal whether you know it or not. Notably, less than 20 percent of this nervous system can detect and carry pain information, which means that using pain as the primary indicator that you are less than healthy or sick is a very poor idea.

The spine houses and protects the nervous system. The healthier the spine is, the better it is able to perform. For optimal protection, the spine requires optimal mobility of all of its joints. When immobility at any level of the spine is present, the nervous system suffers. If the immobility is present long enough, degenerative changes that can’t be felt often result. So there is a daisy chain result: the spine’s mobility affects its health, the health of the spine affects the function of the nervous system, and the functioning of the nervous system determines your level of health.

The Neck

First note that the average head weighs, or has the force, of 10-12 pounds; think of it as the weight of a bowling ball. The cervical spine, which is your neck area, has a specific lordotic curve to it; if you were to look at it on X-rays from a side view with the face pointing to the right the cervical spine normally should have a reverse C shape to it. That is normal and present for proper spine functioning.

The way we carry our head either works with supporting that natural curve or it fights against it by ultimately decreasing or reversing it. The proper curve protects proper communication of the nervous system at a structural level. The nerves that exit the spine in the cervical area go to the face, head, thyroid, eyes, ears, shoulders and even down into and through the fingers. So proper posture and head carriage is more than about how you look in your presentation, it’s about your health.

Tech Neck

Tech neck is the term commonly used when referring to those who present to the office with a specific set of structural changes to posture due to prolonged behaviors of improper texting or using other screen devices such as tablets. If this is not corrected, it can have lasting effects on the structure and function of the spine and ultimately your health.

Think about this for a minute, how do most people usually text? Where’s the phone? Where is their head? How are their shoulders? Grab a phone, if you’re not already reading this on your phone now, and pretend you’re going to send a text.

Most often the phone is in the hands at or below mid-chest, the neck is leaning forward, the head is tilted nearly fully down, and the shoulders are rounded forward. This is tech neck, or text neck. Once or twice or occasionally spending time in this posture certainly will not cause lasting harm. But behavior repeated time and again day-in and day-out absolutely can change the health and function of the muscles, joints, and spine. Maybe you’ll end up with severe pain, maybe you won’t. But function will suffer and, if kept up long enough, you’ll begin to notice changes in ranges of motion and its effect on various tasks. The worst part about this is that kids are engaging in this posture repeatedly at very young ages, which means the poor posture and its negative effects have more time to damage overall health and function of these kiddos.

Fix It

Get a pop socket, the round thing on the back of people’s cell phones that you see. It allows you to hold the phone easily between two fingers. Hold the phone up and in front of your face at eye level. Make sure your shoulders are back and rounded slightly down in a relaxed position. Raise your opposite hand to text from this position. See your chiropractor regularly to assist you in your spine mobility and overall health journey.

The correct texting posture is neither complicated nor difficult. It does, however, require presence and consistency. Presence and consistency requires no money and you have power over it, so there are no excuses. Here’s to your health and to your texting!

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