Social Media - A Pain in the Neck

It wasn't too long ago that the main postural concern regarding children and young adults was the carrying of backpacks, often on one shoulder with too many heavy textbooks causing increased strain throughout the spine. Now, to add to this concern is the growing trend of social media use and texting in relation to neck, shoulder, wrist and finger pain. Pictured to the left is a recent studies findings that indicates the increased strain on the neck associated with neck flexion, which often occurs by simply looking at a mobile screen. (Hansard, K. "Assessment of Stresses in the Cervical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of the Head" Neuro and Spine Surgery) As pictured, the head's load in flexion increases from 10-12lbs at neutral, to 60lbs at 60 degrees flexion. Hansard, in his study, then linked this to a decrease or loss of the normal curve of the neck, which can lead to early and accelerated degeneration, possibly increasing the need for invasive neck surgeries.

Postural Concerns with Mobile Phones Illuminate - Spinal Research Foundation - 2015 Vol 2

“Text neck”. Who would have thought that mobile phones could create such a common problem that it has its own term!

Texting is the new talking. That’s no secret considering the fact that approximately one in three “texters” would actually rather text than talk. In our hyper-connected society of instant communication, it seems as though our heads stay buried in some kind of screen or device.

Text messaging has received a lot of criticism in recent years for distracting drivers causing them to harm themselves or others. But a far less public and condemned side-effect of constant texting and other device usage is the fact that extended use of handheld devices can actually damage your health over time. While the use and technology of our mobile phones seems to be increasing, so does our poor posture. The variety of tasks we can now perform on our mobile phones encourages us to stoop our heads, roll our shoulders forward and slouch while we surf the web or check our email. This poor posture puts additional stress and weight on the spine and muscles that are attached to it. Text neck is the modern day term for the more classical health condition known as Forward Head Posture. When Forward Head Posture begins to develop and our head begins to move forward away from its balanced position, the weight of our head begins to increase. This frequent forward position causes changes in the spine, supporting ligaments, tendons and musculature. Long term, it can put pressure on our internal organs and start to affect our breathing, digestion and even how we cope with stress.

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