Physio: Texter’s neck an avoidable ailment

You only get one neck per lifetime. Take good care of it.

Texter’s neck is a modern-age repetitive stress injury, caused by prolonged and exaggerated bending forward of the neck while using one’s mobile device.

The spinal joints prefer to rest in a middle range, which can be referred to as the “neutral zone.”

Near the end range of a joint’s motion, increasing strain is placed on the supporting ligaments, joint capsules and overlying muscles.

If this load is brief, no problem — the tissues recoil back to their original length and all is well .

When we’re looking straight forward, the weight of our head, 10-12 lbs on average, is transmitted to the structures in our neck.

When your head leans forward 45 degrees, such as when you’re looking into your lap, this force is multiplied more than four times.

Hanging your head forward for long periods can cause neck, mid-back, shoulder and even jaw pain.

Over the course of years, it can lead to chronic neck pain and an increase in degenerative changes in the joints.

Surveys of cell phone use have found that women tend to text more than men.

Based on my clinical experience of 30 years, I see a higher incidence of neck and shoulder girdle pain in women than in men related to postural causes.

This may be a reflection on women’s occupational choices, as well as anatomical structure.

I see an alarming increase in poor neck, shoulder girdle and upper back postures in teens and young adults.

This could have lasting detrimental effects on bony and soft tissue structures.

Slender hyper-flexible individuals are more susceptible to this type of neck strain, possibly because they have less muscle mass for the length of their skeleton and can get into more extreme forward flexion than average.

There are some simple solutions to reducing the strain of Texter’s Neck.

Hold your device at chest level when using it, preferably with forearms or elbows supported, and incline your body slightly forward rather than using only your neck to look down.

Take breaks from looking down every four to six minutes.

Look up, relax your shoulders and focus on something distant rather than up close.

Breathe when reading a text. One group of researchers found that texters tended to hold their breath and showed signs of heightened stress when texting fast, increasing the tension in their neck muscles.

You only get one neck per lifetime. Take good care of it.