Text Neck: Do You Have It?

CFL Magazine Article: ‘Text Neck’: Do You Have It?
Dr. R. Todd Shaver / Shaver Chiropractic & Natural Medicine
Submission Date: 17 December 2014

The world has become addicted to social media and smart phones are the preferred method of feeding that addiction. People cannot seem to resist gazing into the smart phone screen to indulge in Facebook, incessant texting, Twitter, Instagram and various other outlets of which I am unaware … but which probably any kid could name. In addition to the Kardashianizing of America (as though that were not bad enough), this constant attention to social media via smart phones and iPads is causing ill effects on physical health.

One such unhealthy outcome is being referred to in popular media and by at least one research team as “text neck”. Headaches, neck pain and back pain can be caused or triggered by posture abnormality that develops from spending hours per day with the neck bent forward (neck flexion) to check texts, emails and social media on smart phones. Hence, the name, “text neck”. Cute.

OK, the name is silly but the problem is real. Researchers led by spinal surgeon Dr. Kenneth Hansraj recently reported that, on average, people spend up to 4 hours per day and 1400 hours per year looking down at their smart phones and similar devices. The average weight of an adult head is 10 – 12 pounds; so, in neutral healthy posture, the head exerts about 10 – 12 pounds of stress on the spine. However, bending the head forward (neck flexion) increases stress on the spine as though the head were much heavier. For instance: 15 degrees of neck flexion creates 27 pounds of pressure on the spine; 30 degrees of neck flexion imposes 40 pounds of stress on the spine; 45 degrees of neck flexion causes nearly 50 pounds of stress; and 60 degrees of neck flexion causes 60 pounds of stress on the spine. The researchers assert that stress from this “bad posture” (forward bending of the neck & forward shift of head) can lead to spinal “degeneration and possibly surgeries”.

Additionally, abnormal posture of the head and neck can cause or contribute to an assortment of symptoms and diseases. Various studies indicate that abnormal head/neck posture can cause back pain, headache, neck pain, tingling in arms/hands, high blood pressure, weight gain, constipation, heartburn & other gastrointestinal conditions, migraines, and respiratory conditions. New Zealand researchers reported in September 2014 that slouching even has effects on mental health, contributing to symptoms including depression, anger, and low libido.

Since head/neck posture is such a big deal, it would pay to better understand it. Healthy posture, when viewed from the side, means that the ears are aligned over the shoulders, the shoulders back (not slouching forward) and the shoulder blades are flat against the torso; an x-ray of that healthy posture side view would demonstrate a gently-bending forward curvature in the neck which increases weight-bearing efficiency. Bad posture involves forward shift of the head, possibly forward bending of the neck, and perhaps slouching of the shoulders with shoulder blades jutting out away from the torso. A side-view x-ray of this bad posture would demonstrate a loss or reduction in the normal cervical curvature. Bad posture causes all manner of health chaos. On the other hand, good posture has been shown to optimize both physical health and mental health.

It is good that the kitschy “text neck” nickname has attracted the popular media’s attention to the danger of this spinal problem. However, as wise King Solomon asserts in Ecclesiastes, “… there is nothing new under the sun”. It is important to understand that health issues related to poor posture are not new and are not unique to the techy Facebook generation. In fact, any activity which frequently or for extended periods pushes the head forward or the neck into flexion will eventually cause spine-related symptoms and disease. Be diligent to assure that you maintain healthy posture in your daily activities … think about sleep postures, work-station arrangement, head position when reading a book, the body position imposed by your favorite chair, and postures assumed when engaging in hobbies. Do these activities cause your head to shift forward or your neck to bend downward? If so, you must modify the activity to accommodate a healthy posture.

Posture problems are pervasive because most of us, often unavoidably, spend a great part of our day looking down at what we do. Just as regular dental visits assist with dental health, we also need help to restore and/or maintain good posture and spinal health. Chiropractic physicians are highly skilled at preventing and correcting posture problems. The most thoroughly researched chiropractic method for posture correction is Chiropractic Biophysics. More information regarding Chiropractic Biophysics and the importance of posture is available at www.idealspine.com. You can google it on your smartphone.