Today, almost everyone uses a smartphone or some sort of mobile device to communicate with the people in their lives. However, while constantly looking down at one’s phone at messages, pictures and more, people fail to realize how these habitual acts affect the human body.
Referred to as “Text Neck”, this condition is the result of technology that has caused the development of neck pain and damage that is largely sustained from frequently looking down at cell phones, tablet or other wireless devices. What causes this stress on the neck, as one study published in the journal Surgical Technology International states, is that the farther the head tilts forward, the more pressure that is put on the spine. For example, if the head is tilted just 15 degrees forward it puts 27 pounds of force on the cervical spine and the supporting muscles.
A worldwide health concern affecting millions of all ages, this condition can go on to cause a flattening of the spinal curve, the onset of early arthritis, spinal degeneration, spinal misalignment, disc herniation or compression, muscle or nerve damage, loss of lung volume capacity or gastrointestinal problems, according to The Text Neck Institute.
Tech to the Rescue
While technology is the root of this ongoing health problem it is also being used to bring about potential solutions. For example, one Android application, named the Text Neck Indicator, makes users aware when they are holding a device in an unfavorable viewing position.
To do this, a green light will appear on a device when it is appropriately tilted toward an “acceptable” and neutral viewing angle. This angle is defined by the application as being at least 65 degrees from the horizontal.
Additionally, a new wearable device called Alex, a product of Namu Inc. of Seoul, is now on the market and allows for the monitoring of neck angles. The device will vibrate when an individual’s posture is determined to be too poor.
If you already have pain, “there may be a benefit if you use something like this in conjunction with an exercise program that strengthens neck muscles and muscles stabilizing the head,” Alan S. Hilibrand, professor of spinal surgery at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, told The Wall Street Journal.
Although neither text neck indicating service has been tested in a human study, becoming increasingly aware of this real condition may help to deter negative, related conditions down the road. There are also additional measures that can be taken to avoid constantly looking downwards and putting excessive stress on the neck.
“The best way to avoid it is to text with voice recognition, with the device held so that the person is facing forward, and not down,” Dr. Derek Ochiai, MD, board certified hip arthroscopic surgeon and sports medicine doctor at Nirschl Orthopedic Center in Arlington, Va., told CNET. “If that is not possible, try a device with a bigger screen, so the device can be held farther away so that the neck is facing forward.”
Above all, users must remember to remain conscious of their health despite the overwhelming benefits that technology provides to daily life. While being able to communicate instantly with others may seem like a huge societal innovation, what will happen to the human body as a result of this increased use and exposure may become detrimental to an individual’s overall well-being.