Saturday, 15 December 2018

C Columns

Maximum Health: Dealing with the Hazards of 'Text Neck'

By Rosie Main

In today’s society it is hard to walk down the street or go into a store or a restaurant without seeing someone with their head down, looking at their phone or tablet. Almost everyone — including most kids — has a smart phone or some type of pocket computer on them at all times. And everywhere you turn, you see people looking down hunched over their phones texting.

This has become so prevalent today that the medical and chiropractic community has taken notice. “Text neck” is the name given to the neck, upper back and shoulder pain caused by text messaging on phones. Most people text with their head forward and looking down and many are in this position for hours on end. It is estimated that many people spend two-four hours each day looking down at their smartphones while texting, reading, sending emails and checking their social media. That adds up to 730-1,460 hours a year with their heads hunched forward and down in an unnatural position.

Unfortunately, the figures for teenagers are far worse. It is estimated that the average teenager is spending over 5,000 hours a year looking down at either a phone or handheld video games.

Poor posture while texting creates neck pain

Poor posture is the number one cause of text neck. The average human head weighs 10-12 pounds, but the more your head leans forward and down, the more stress is placed on your neck and upper back. If your head is angled down 30 degrees, the weight of your head increases to 40 pounds; and if your neck is bent down to 60 degrees, the weight of your head increases to a staggering 60 pounds.

Important functions of the cervical spine (neck)

• Allows your head to turn side to side and to look up and down

• Protects the nerves that branch off the spinal cord and supply the brain and upper extremities

• Acts as a shock absorber, insulating the brain from jolts and jarring knocks

A healthy neck should form a natural “C”-shape curvature from front to back. In addition to the neck, there are three other natural curves to the spine that allow it to absorb vertical shock, bend and turn. However, long hours texting and playing video games with our heads in an unnatural downward position can distort the natural curves, creating detrimental effects on the neck and upper back. Over time, the neck loses its “C”-shape curve and straightens into an upright position and can even reverse and curve in the opposite direction.

Problems caused by text neck

Neck pain, upper back pain and headaches are typically the first symptoms that someone with text neck will experience. But because only 10 percent of our nervous system feels pain, there can be years of degenerative change occurring within the spine before you ever feel a symptom. When the neck is pulled forward and down while texting, the joints of the cervical spine (neck) and thoracic spine (upper back) become misaligned. This can cause pinched nerves and even herniated discs.

The neck (cervical spine), along with the rest of the spine, houses and protects the nervous system, which consists of the spinal cord and the spinal nerves that branch off the spinal cord and spread throughout the body. Text neck specifically affects the nerves of the cervical and upper thoracic spine. These nerves control and coordinate the function of your brain, pituitary gland, eyes, ears, sinuses, facial muscles, heart, lungs and upper extremities.

When the vertebrae of your neck are in proper alignment, these nerves are able to exit the spine freely and function properly. The unnatural posture created by text neck changes the size and shape of the openings in the spine that the nerves use to exit. This can irritate and pinch the nerves, decreasing their ability to function properly. Symptoms resulting from this nerve irritation include: neck pain; upper back pain; radiating arm pain; numbness/tingling into arms, hands and fingers; high blood pressure; fatigue; breathing problems; and more.

Text neck also causes significant pressure on the nerves of the upper cervical spine, which travel to the brain. Pressure or irritation of these nerves can result in headaches, migraines, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and depression.

As you can see, the effects of text neck can have a significantly negative impact on your health. Consult with a specialist, when needed, to make sure the vertebrae in your spine are properly aligned.

Rosie Main, DC, owns Main Health Solutions at 2300 W. Everest Lane, Suite 175, in Meridian. She is also the host of Maximized Living Radio on 94.1 The Voice and KIDO 580 AM. For more information, visit MaximizedLivingDrMain.com.

 

 

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