By Dr. Ravichandra Kelkar, Senior Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal
In this digital age, it is a common sight to see people of all ages hunched over their digital devices. Technology has indeed helped us in many ways, but on the downside it has also led to the rise of lifestyle disorders. Text Neck is an example of a neck condition causes by bending over the phone for long periods of time. Younger generations that use digital devices continuously are more prone to this, however these days we can also see adults suffering from text neck.
When the neck is aligned normally, the spine is in a smooth, soft ‘S’ shape. An individual who leans forward too often will give a hunched-over appearance. Similarly leaning behind for too long gives a scrunched look. Symptoms of excessive strain on the spine may include radiating pain, muscular weakness and headache. Progressively, there may be spinal degeneration, cervical disc compression, muscle weakness, early onset arthritis and loss of lung capacity. Further damage can lead to permanent loss of the normal curve of the neck.
10 simple tips to prevent and manage Text Neck
Preventing text neck should be the first priority for anybody who spends a long time over phones, tablets and laptops. Once the issue develops, it is much more difficult to manage or reverse. It is common to see a small hump on the back of the neck of people these days, which does not go away easily. The following are 10 simple tips to prevent text neck from developing –
- Practice good body posture – Standing in the right posture is important to maintain good spine health, whether the person is sitting or standing. Keep the back straight but not too stiff and keep the neck in line with the body.
- Change the hand holding the device –Avoid using devices, especially heavy devices with only one hand for a long duration. Shift the load to different hands, use support mobile holders, tables, etc.
- Use health tracking apps or devices– Make use of apps and devices which can monitor the amount of time you spend in static position or in a stooped posture, or which will give you reminders to regularly change your position, hints or suggestions of neck and spine exercises.
- Plan your work day with regular breaks in between– Avoid using smart phones continuously for more than a few minutes. After every 20 to 30 minutes of working, take a break of at least 5 minutes during which you can stand up and stretch and take a short walk if possible.
- Create a comfortable workspace – Understand the ergonomics of your work place and if necessary, change it to keep a comfortable posture while working. Use a chair that is designed to support the back and adjust the height of your table or laptop screen so that you do not have to bend to use it. Doing so also increases your ability and work output.
- Practice exercises in between work –In between working on the desktop/laptop, pause for some time to practice neck and back exercises. Move your neck and back to relieve the muscles of some of the tension with neck rotations, back stretches, arching the neck backwards and side bends.
- Go for regular massages – Getting a massage from a trained professional can help ease the knots in the muscles and also help you identify problem areas which you can correct with the right lifestyle changes.
- Focus on neck and spine exercises during workouts – If you are prone to any of the above habits, focus more on strengthening the muscles in your neck and spine area. Upper Trapezius stretch and Shoulder Elevators Stretch are two examples of exercises that will help improve muscle stamina, correct the posture and strengthen the neck muscle.
- Keep cell phones at eye level – Hold the cell-phone at eye-level and avoid bending the neck forward for a prolonged period. Practice using your devices in a comfortable position so that stress on the neck is reduced and also ensure that your hands and arms are sufficiently supported.
- Use Ice/heat packs – In case you are showing the starting symptoms of text neck such as pain in the neck or upper back,ice/heat packs can be used to ease and relieve the tension. Take this as a warning sign to implement changes before the symptoms worsen.
In case you start to experience consistent pain in the neck and spine areas, consult with a spine specialist and do not self-medicate or use painkillers. A specialist can evaluate your condition and accordingly prescribe the right medicines or inject medicine into the trigger points to get relief from painful text neck. Prevention is the best option to stay away from undue pain!