I often wonder how the human body will adapt, or evolve, to accommodate our obsession with smartphones! Will our spines gradually elongate or change shape? Will our eyes move down to the tip of our chins so we are able to look down with greater ease? Only time will tell!
In the meantime, according to some experts, smartphones are already causing a ‘pain in the neck’. A US study (recently referred to in The Guardian), has shown that this phenomenon is becoming an epidemic that
“could lead to permanent damage. The posture we adopt as we stare at our phones, according to the surgeon behind the paper, increases the stress on the neck and can cause excessive wear and tear that may eventually require an operation to correct it”.
It is thought that the overuse of smartphones can potentially cause headaches, pain in the arms, neck and shoulders and even numbness, all mainly as a result of bad posture; a condition now generally being dubbed ‘text neck’.
Whilst not all studies agree with this theory, as osteopaths and advocates of good posture, our instincts and experience tell us that spending lengthy periods of time staring at a smartphone with your head and shoulders bent forward will eventually take its toll! Hopefully the following tips will help.
Tips for Avoiding ‘Text Neck’:
- Try not to use your smartphone for longer than a few minutes at a time.
- If longer periods of phone use are unavoidable, remember to take regular breaks, we would suggest a break every five minutes or so.
- Do regular gentle exercises to stretch the neck (try the ones listed below).
- Try to make phone calls rather than constantly emailing or texting.
- Use voice recognition.
- Vary your position. Rather than bending your neck, hold the phone nearer to eye level, this may be more easily done at home where you can also find a suitable arm rest (however, do not stay in any one position for too long).
- If you start feeling pain in the neck, back, arms or shoulders or start suffering headaches do seek advice from your GP or from your osteopath.
- Alert your children to the potential damage and educate them on how to avoid any problems.
Exercises to Help with ‘Text Neck’
If at all possible warm up the neck with a heat pack or hot water bottle prior to performing the stretches.
- Neck Circles: Sitting up straight; imagine your nose is on a pane of glass and you are drawing circles on it with your nose. Keep the movements slow, smooth and pain free. Do 20 circles in each direction.
- Chin Tucks: Sitting up straight; tuck your chin in as though trying to make a double chin whilst lengthening the back of your neck – make sure you are looking down and not upwards. Hold for 10 seconds x 3.
- Neck Sidebends: Again, sitting, allow your head to fall to the side – ear towards the shoulder – and feel the stretch in the neck muscles. You can increase the stretch by gently pulling the head to the side with your hand. Hold for 10 seconds x 3 each side.
- Neck Twists: Rotate the neck to look over the shoulder as far as is comfortable and hold for 3 seconds. Do this 5 times each way.
As with all stretching routines, it is desirable to feel a stretch in the muscles but NOT pain.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog please feel free to contact our team at Teddington Osteopaths on 020 8977 3595.
Stuart Walker, Registered Osteopath & Head of Practice