Monday, April 22, 2013

Digital Discomfort: 10 Tips To Prevent & Repair Text Neck

Is Technology Becoming A Pain In Your Child’s Neck? 

Did you know Canadians send an average of 270 million texts per day? Along with the convenience that advancing technology provides comes the need to minimize the risk of injury. This is especially true of young people, whose bodies are still developing.
With the ever increasing daily use of mobile devices – such as smartphones, tablets and handheld games – chiropractors are seeing an increase in corresponding repetitive strain injuries (RSI’s), colloquially known by names such as “text neck” and “Blackberry thumb”. RSI’s are injuries of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that are often caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression (pressing against hard surfaces), or sustained awkward positions.
What is “Text Neck”?
Text neck presents as rounded shoulders and the head hanging forward and down. It is caused by poor posture from hunching over a mobile device for long periods of time,” says Dr. Brian Gushaty, an Edmonton chiropractor. “This prolonged poor posture is often associated with chronic headaches and shoulder or neck pain, and can have long term impact.”
                            For every inch of forward head posture, it can increase
                            the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.
                            – Dr. Adalbert Kapandji, Physiology of Joints
Text neck and neck strain can cause postural abnormalities and changing growth patterns, especially in the upper spine. The largest risk group is children and teenagers who are heavy users of smartphones and handheld gaming devices.
Technology isn’t going anywhere, so how can we help our children minimize the risks? Since text neck is a postural abnormality, the key is to stress the importance of strong posture and how to achieve it.
Tips to avoid text neck
There are several things parents and young people can incorporate into their day-to-day activities to alleviate the symptoms of text neck and related RSI’s, while also strengthening their posture:
  • Sit up straight with chest out and shoulders back.
  • Bring your arms up to eye level so you don’t have to look down to see the screen.
  • If you must look down, tuck your chin into your neck instead of hanging your head forward.
  • If you use your mobile device for extensive typing, consider investing in an external keyboard.
  • Rest your forearms on a pillow while typing to minimize neck tension.
  • Avoid using mobile devices in bright sunlight. Straining to see the screen often leads to jutting the chin forward, straining the muscles that support the head.
Strive for a balanced lifestyle
The best way to minimize the risk of RSI’s related to mobile devices is to limit use of these devices.
In a recent Canadian study, researchers surveyed students and found that those who used their devices three hours or more a day were twice as likely to experience pain in their shoulders, neck and other issues compared to those who used their devices for less time.
Balance is critical. Encourage your child to take regular breaks from mobile devices and get regular physical activity to offset the effects of leaning over a smartphone or tablet.
“You want to neutralize the stress,” says Dr. Gushaty. “Strenuous physical activity for the upper body, such as racquet sports, can provide a good counterbalance for the strain caused by poor posture.”
Another key element is to introduce your child to a regular stretching program:
  • Hand stretches and squeezing a stress ball can help fingers.
  • Pull shoulder blades back and down to help alleviate neck and shoulder strain.
  • Stretch the chest by standing up straight with arms down at your side. Turn forearms until thumbs are pointing at the wall behind you.
  • Exercises like yoga and Pilates focus heavily on posture and can help improve poor posture.
If you are concerned your child is suffering from a repetitive strain injury like text neck, talk to your health care provider. They can suggest stretches and exercises that can help minimize the impact of the strain and offer lifestyle counseling to achieve a balanced, healthy lifestyle for you and your child.