Text neck becoming epidemic: threats and prevention

January 20, 2020 - 18:40

TEHRAN – Excessive texting and staring at the handheld smartphones, done almost every day by millions of people, brings a heavy burden on spine and neck injuries which can cause serious health threats to mobile user population all over the world.

Known as text neck, turtle neck, or anterior head syndrome, the condition is growing along with the number of mobile users. 

Apart from neck pain, it can also cause shoulder pain, upper back pain, headaches, and increased thoracic kyphosis.

Ahmad Moazenzadeh, head of the Iranian association of physiotherapeutic sciences, told IRNA that bending the neck while using a mobile phone will cause neck tension. 

This action will harm the natural curves of the spine and cause neck pain and other musculoskeletal disorders, and in the long run, can lead to deterioration and surgery, he added.

He went on to explain that as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase, at a 15 to 20-degree angle, the weight of the head is nearly doubled, placing about 27 pounds of force on the neck.

If left untreated, the text neck can cause chronic problems such as spinal degeneration, arthritis, disc herniation, and nerve damage, he concluded.

Based on recent data released by the Communication Regulatory Authority of Iran, the number of mobile users stood at 93.36 million over the previous Iranian calendar year 1397 (ended March 20, 2019), while increased up to over 116.51 million by the end of the year.

Symptoms and prevention

The most common presentation of the text neck is neck pain, stiffness, and soreness. The main symptoms include radiation of pain into the shoulders and arms, muscular weakness, headache, disc compression, early-onset arthritis.

Prevention is the key when it comes to text neck, the following recommendations from a systematic review of text neck should be kept in mind while using smartphones or other handheld devices, such as avoiding excessive mobile usage and take frequent breaks, avoiding prolonged static postures, positioning the device such that it reduces stresses on the head, neck and the upper extremities.

Also, avoid high repetitions of movements such as prolonged typing or swiping, and refuse to hold large or heavy devices in one hand for a long duration.

Rehabilitation is found to be very effective in treating the stress injury, which can be designed as a 2-4-week program starting with soft tissue mobilization, active and passive stretches of tight muscles and progressing to muscle strengthening, posture retraining and home exercise program.

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