Ever notice how many young adults walk around as if they’re carrying the weight of the world? Shoulders hunched, heads bent forward—like they’ve aged beyond their years.
Take Sarah Atchison. At 14 years old, she was far too young to develop chronic neck problems. But her neck wouldn’t stop aching, and the pain made it hard to concentrate. It was her chiropractor who figured out the soreness came from hours spent stooped over her smartphone, texting with her friends.
We all do it. Waiting in line for coffee, standing at the bus stop, riding the Max: Everywhere you look, people are bowing their heads to stare at mobile devices.
“It’s an epidemic,” says spinal surgeon Kenneth K. Hansraj. “Just look around you. Everyone has their heads down.”
Nearly two-thirds of Americans have smartphones, and 79 percent of people between ages 18 and 44 keep them nearby all but two waking hours of the day. Most of us spend nearly three hours a day texting and socializing on our phones, and that’s not even counting the time we spend browsing the web.
If you’re like most people, you spend hundreds of hours a year looking down at electronic screens (thousands, if you’re a teenager). Texting has become the dominant form of communication. Across the globe, people send more than one billion texts each month.
All that texting is taking its toll on our bodies, leading to a new condition that’s afflicting an increasing number of mobile users. Known as text neck, or tech neck, it can strike anyone who uses technology that forces the head down for long periods of time, causing chronic pain and even premature arthritis.
It’s not just happening in large cities. Even local Portland chiropractors and their colleagues across the nation are noticing a rise in neck and back problems related to overuse of smartphones and other electronic devices.
Text neck—a term coined by Florida chiropractor Dean L. Fishman—is “impacting millions and is a growing critical global concern.” There’s even an app for it, which measures the angle of your phone and lets you know if its position is favorable for your neck.
What Causes Text Neck?
We often don’t notice it at the time, but bending our heads forward too much places an enormous amount of stress on the spine. Consider: An adult head weighs around 10 pounds. Tilting the head forward by just 15 degrees puts an extra 27 pounds of stress on the upper spine.
Most smartphone users? They bend their necks forward as much as 60 degrees. That’s 60 pounds of undue stress on the spine—the equivalent of an 8-year-old child.
“People spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over reading and texting on their smartphones and devices. Cumulatively this is 700 to 1,400 hours a year of excess stresses seen about the cervical spine,” Hansraj concluded in a study on text neck.
Many people experience headaches that they don’t realize may be coming from their neck (also called cervicogenic, meaning “originating from the neck), which chiropractic care can address easily, eliminating pain as well as providing a long-term solution.
How Text Neck Affects Your Body
But what does that stress mean for your body? For starters, the muscles in the back of your neck tighten and can start to ache. You may start clenching your jaw, which can cause headaches. Over time, poor posture can even straighten or reverse your neck’s natural curve.
But text neck doesn’t just affect your neck; its impact trickles down your entire body. The head’s forward posture shifts the body’s center of gravity, which sets off a domino effect as other parts of your frame shift to compensate. Your upper body drifts backward, causing upper back muscles to tighten. Your hips tilt forward. This can cause:
- Neck and upper back soreness
- Pain in the middle or lower back
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and arms
“Text neck is now considered the new arthritis,” says Dr. Rashad Sanford, founder of Atlanta Spine Doctors. “Traditionally, arthritis develops in our late 40s. However, with these improper habits, I believe we will start to see individuals with spinal arthritis in their late 20s and 30s.”
Not a Normal Part of Aging
Many people deal with these symptoms for years without realizing what’s really behind them. We often write off our neck and back pain as a “normal part of aging” when it’s really not. Or we ignore the tingling in our hands until it becomes a problem.
Even when people do seek medical care, they often resort to unnecessary surgery—never realizing there’s a safe, easy and non-invasive way to relieve the pain.
With natural chiropractic care, Portland technophiles can find relief from back, neck and head pain caused by electronics use. For the majority of people I see with these recurring issues, the source of the problem is easy to find and easy to fix. At our Portland natural health clinic, you can find relief with chiropractic care.
Dr. Carrie Staller of Heart Spring Health treats text neck using a combination of therapies, including:
- Chiropractic adjustments. When your neck is routinely bent, your spine is out of alignment. Dr. Carrie uses specific, gentle movements of certain joints to realign the spine and keep everything moving the way it’s supposed to.
- Graston Technique. Scar tissue in the muscles and tendons can act as glue, keeping muscles tight and inflexible. Using specialized equipment, this therapy helps break up the “glue” and return tight or inflamed muscles to a more relaxed and natural state.
- The stronger and more flexible your muscles are the easier it will become to maintain good posture. Dr. Carrie prescribes targeted stretches to help you increase your body’s strength and stability.
By focusing on keeping your spine healthy and strong, chiropractic work will alleviate the symptoms and prevent them from recurring in the future.
What You Can Do
If you find yourself suffering from unexplained neck or back pain, the first step is to look for patterns in your symptoms. For example:
- Do your headaches start while you’re at work?
- Do your hands tingle after spending a long time texting or sitting at your computer?
- Does your neck or back pain get worse after specific activities?
- Does changing positions relieve the pain?
Next, consider visiting a chiropractic clinic. Portland, OR residents with back or neck pain can get the help they need at Heart Spring Health. Contact the clinic for a chiropractic evaluation with Dr. Carrie Staller, and get started on a treatment plan that provides both quick symptomatic relief and a long-term solution to the underlying problem.
Dr Carrie Staller is a chiropractic physician.