Checking your phone too frequently can be a real pain in the neck. We love texting. The average American sends between 250 and 2,000 texts per month—that’s nearly 70 messages a day at the high end of the range.
Even when not reading or sending texts, you may still look down at your phone for other reasons. Sixty-four percent of American adults own smartphones, using the devices to do everything from online banking to applying for jobs. All this looking down is bad news for your neck.
You put up to 60 pounds of pressure on your neck when you bend it to look down at a phone. Your head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds, but gravitational pull brings the pressure to higher levels depending on the angle of your neck. The range of problems that develop based on chronic smartphone overuse is called “text neck.”
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Slipping Spines and Irritations
Text neck can result in pain in the neck and upper shoulders, headaches, and a change in the curve of the neck. Like other overuse issues, such as tennis elbow or runner’s knee, it can also lead to problems that can get worse over time, including:
- Herniated and bulging discs
- Muscle strain
- Pinched nerves
These problems are starting to show up more in younger and younger patients. Because many teens are so frequently using cellphones and smartphones, and because they may not be as aware of their posture as they should be, they may have neck pain that they don’t realize is related to checking their smartphones.
Pay Attention for Prevention
The best way to prevent text neck and related problems is to limit the use of your phone. If you do check your device frequently, use your arms to hold your phone directly in front of your face rather than angling your neck to look at the screen.
You can also perform these exercises to relieve tension in the neck and shoulders:
- Roll your head gently from side to side.
- Press your head against your hands, first pressing forward, then pushing your hands to the back to press backward.
- Stand about 2 feet back from a corner. Place your left arm on the left-side wall and your right arm on the right-side wall, then lean in as far as possible without any pain. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to work your shoulder muscles.
If you have neck, shoulder or back pain that’s causing problems, the Spine Care Center can help. To learn more, visit UPMCPinnacle.com/spine or call 1-877-499-SPINE.
Featuring Michael L. Fernandez, MD
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UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.