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Light in Your Hand, Heavy on Your Neck!

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Mobile devices and smartphones have revolutionized the way we communicate and interact with each other and with the world around us.  Making a dinner reservation, booking a flight to an exotic destination, checking the score of your favorite sports team, and even reading this post can all be carried out using a small lightweight mobile device! However, with the luxury and convenience we gain from our smartphones and mobile devices, also comes the risk of developing some health problems, including “text neck” syndrome. 

On average, the human head weighs about 10-12 pounds, or 4.5-5.5 kilograms, and is supported by a flexible mobile cervical spine.  However, as the neck bends forward, while texting on a light smartphone for example, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase gradually.  This “heavy” weight on the cervical spine can lead to additional stress to, and can accelerate the degenerative wear-and-tear process of the neck.  

“Text neck” syndrome, thus, is a condition that results from assuming an unnatural flexed posture of the neck, repeatedly for prolonged periods of time while using a mobile device.  The condition can result in neck pain, arm pain and numbness, tightness and spasm of the muscles of the back of the neck and shoulders, and headaches.  In addition, it could potentially affect the normal curvature of the spine.

It is worth noting that neck problems associated with bending the neck forward for a long period of time are not just limited to texting and using mobile devices.  Many jobs and daily activities might require us to look down for a long period of time.  For example, surgeons might be looking down a wound for long hours while performing certain procedures, or a traveler might want to read a novel on board a 6-hour flight!  So, why is the focus on “text neck” syndrome and not on “surgeon neck” or “traveler neck” syndromes?!!
 
It is estimated that around 1.75 billion people around the world used their smartphones in 2014!  It is also suggested that people on average spend about 2 hours a day on their smartphones and mobile devices, and that this number could be even higher among younger adults and teenagers.  As a result, the phenomenon of “text neck” syndrome can potentially become an epidemic one affecting many people.  Also, with the use of mobile devices and smartphones at a much younger age, there is the possibility that we might start to see degenerative neck problems presenting at younger ages as well!  
 
In addition to recognizing the potential hazardous effects of texting on your neck, here are some tips to avoid “text neck” syndrome:
·      Maintain a neutral neck position while texting by holding your mobile device up higher in your hands.
·      Look down at your device with your eyes instead of bending your neck.
·      Use the voice recognition function of your device to create your messages, or make phone calls instead of texting.
·      Participate in core muscle exercises to strengthen your neck and back muscles.
 
 
Oh, and if you were reading this post on a mobile device, then go ahead and take a break from your device to stretch your neck!
 
Mohamed Abdulhamid, MD
www.DrAbdulhamid.com
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