A Singapore survey of more than 500 young adults aged between 21 and 29 showed that more than 8 in 10 of them spent 3 or more hours on their mobile phones and tablets every day, and 6 in 10 had neck and back pain after using their devices. However, most of those who have the pain are not aware of this “text neck” syndrome.
What is Text Neck?
It is actually a repetitive stress injury to the neck caused by holding the head in a forward and downward position for extended periods of time. This seemingly harmless posture actually causes the weight of the head on the neck muscles to increase by as much as 6 times. Repeatedly holding this posture for long period causes neck and shoulder tension which progresses into stiffness and pain. When left unchecked and untreated, inflammation of the soft tissues of the neck, spine degeneration and change of spine curvature gradually occur across time.
Symptoms of Text Neck
- Neck tension and stiffness
- Pain in neck and upper back, especially when using a handheld device or at the end of the day
- Feeling of more warmth in the neck area
- Shoulder tension or pain
- Headache especially when after looking down for a period of time
Treatment of Text Neck
Pain is what normally brings Text Neck sufferers to seek for relief and treatment. In its early stage, the aim is to relieve tension and pain, and to improve circulation in the neck and shoulder areas. The following methods can help:
- Massage and acupressure
- Medicated balm and herbal oils for pain and circulation
- Hot compresses
- General neck and shoulder exercises and stretches
If the condition is allowed to progress, inflammation may set in and the spine gets affected. Professional help would then be needed to address the condition. Using these measures together lets you achieve the best results:
- Gentle spine manipulations
- Anti-inflammatory medicine or herbs
Prevention and Advice
Posture correction is the only permanent solution to Text Neck, since it is the cause of the condition. Conscious effort has to be made to achieve this. Here are some suggested ways:
- Raise the gadget– Move the smartphone or tablet to eye level so that the head does not need to bend forward
- Take frequent breaks from the same position– Avoid using the gadget for extended periods and remember to take breaks in between.
- Do regular neck and shoulder exercises– Exercises can be done during intermittent breaks or selected times regularly. You can also incorporate it into your other regular exercise regimes.
- Use web versions of instant messaging services– When using desktop, switch to using web versions of instant messaging services. This would help keep what you are doing at eye level and avoid forward movement of the head.
- Observe and check posture throughout the day– Incorrect posture can become habitual. Make a constant effort to check and correct your posture, even when you are not using your gadget.
Surely prevention is better than cure. In its advanced stage, total and permanent cure may not be achievable, meaning the pain can only be managed. Hence, it is advisable to address the condition in its early stage.
The Straits Times
The Text Neck Institute
(by Tan Shiau Tse, TCM Physician, Copyright® HST Medical Pte Ltd)