'Text Neck' and Other Tech Troubles
Nov. 26, 2014 -- Gift-buying season is here, and on top of the wish list for most people is the latest tech gadget or gizmo. But some experts are concerned that more tech may equal more pain for frequent users.
For starters, we take on “text neck” -- and yes, according to Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, it’s a real thing.
“We did a study on the issue of poor posture and how it affects you, especially when you’re on a cell phone or smart device,” says Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitative Medicine. “It’s a lot of load, an amazing amount of weight to be carrying around your neck.”
Just how much load does that constant downward-looking gaze put on the neck muscles?
“When your spine is in neutral position, the head weighs about 10-12 pounds,” he says. “At 15 degrees [forward], the neck sees 27 pounds. At 45 degrees, it sees 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees, it’s 60 pounds.”
That’s 60 pounds of weight stress on muscles and nerves that are meant to handle 10-12 pounds of stress, and that much load can do a lot of damage over time.
“When you have such aggressive stressors on the neck, you get wear and tear on the spine,” Hansraj says. “You can develop tears within the disc, or even get a slipped or herniated disc.”
The end result? “We’re seeing tons of patients who have neck pain, and really when you look at the MRIs, they are fairly normal,” he says. “When we straighten them up and get them some physical therapy, they do a lot better.”
Feeling the Crunch
Aletha Chappelear, DC, an Atlanta-area chiropractor, says she often sees patients with aches and pains that turn out to be related to their tech.
“We’re seeing it a lot, especially in teenagers and older adolescents,” she says. “We’re so into our electronic devices, and what we’re doing is holding the device at chest- or waist-level, and looking down at the device. It’s causing neck muscles to be shortened and tightened, and shoulders to be rounded forward.”