16:37 PM

Is Your Cellphone Causing ‘Text Neck’?

You probably can’t get through the day without glancing at your smartphone, laptop or tablet. But staring too much and too long at these wireless devices isn’t just distracting, it also may hurt your neck and spine.

It’s called “text neck,” and it’s be- coming a digital-age epidemic.

“Our bodies are designed to move and to change positions frequently,” says Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) physical therapist Christopher Johns, with Rehabilitation Services. “Today, many of us spend the day sitting at computer, texting and watching television while not getting enough exercise. These activities all involve a sustained forward-head posture that puts extra strain on the neck. This could lead to tightness of some muscles and joint and weak- ness of other muscles, Johns says.

Pain in the neck

Your neck naturally curves like a C. When you tilt it forward, you reverse that natural curve, stretching and inflaming tissues that can cause neck, shoulder and back pain.

Over time, the text-neck hunch also may promote headaches, ruptured spinal disks, pinched nerves, reduced lung capacity from shallow breathing, and shoulder rotator cuff impingement caused by tendon compression.

Putting it in reverse

Besides limiting screen time, Johns recommends the following tips to prevent text neck or ease discomfort you’re already having.

  • Change positions. After 10 minutes of looking down at your device, hold it at eye level with your neck in a neutral position for 10 or 15 minutes.

  • Achieve balance. Restore your neck curve by looking up at the ceiling periodically to stretch it in the opposite direction.

  • Stop slouching. Periodically sit up straight and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Reach your arms over your head.

  • Keep eyeglass prescriptions current. Trouble seeing the screen may force you to lean even farther forward.

The good news is you don’t have to give up electronics. A few minutes staring down at your device won’t hurt you, Johns says. It’s when youdo it repeatedly without varying your posture that problems could develop.

“Everything in moderation,” he advises. “Just be aware – change positions frequently, get enough exercise, and take time to stretch.”