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Text Neck and Other Pain from Digital Devices

You may be familiar with the term “Tennis Elbow,” but have you ever heard of ailments like “Blackberry Thumb” or “Text Neck”? Digital devices no doubt improve our ability to communicate and pass information, but there are also some negative effects to be wary of.

Text Neck, as it is commonly referred to, is one of the most recent tech-related maladies to gain notoriety. It refers to the headaches, arm, shoulder, and neck pains that occur when one spends too much time in the common posture for using cell phones, tablets and e-readers. To show just how prevalent this term is becoming, an initial Google search for Text Neck yielded about 123 million results, whereas only hours later, the number increased to about 126 million results! In addition to headaches and joint pain, people may also experience extreme fatigue and muscle spasms as a result of improper posture while using these devices.

Physicians across the nation are seeing these effects manifest in people who are much younger than  one might expect a person suffering from joint or neck pain to be. Scott Bautch, a spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association, notes that “by age 14 approximately 7% of teens are having daily symptoms of back pain, the same rate that back pain is seen in adults.” This rate is alarming to say the least, and makes me wonder what we can do to prevent teens from developing this kind of pain.

There are two approaches to preventing Text Neck: First, move the phone instead of your neck. Most people hold their phones or other devices in or near their laps, forcing them to bend their heads down and thrust their necks forward. This is exactly the type of posture that will land you in the doctor’s office with a bad pain in the neck, for lack of a better phrase.Ideally, people should hold their devices at a 90-70 degree angle from the body.

Second, take breaks and move around. Recognize that you are using these devices frequently and for extended periods of time throughout the day. Make time to exercise and be mindful of your posture throughout the day, not just while using your device.