How to tackle text neck

Digital technology may have revolutionised modern life. But many experts warn it could be causing health problems too.

One of the known side effects of overusing digital technology is called text neck syndrome – a term used to describe what happens when you have your head hung or flexed in a forward position while looking at a smartphone or another digital device for long periods of time.

According to a consultant spinal surgeon from Harley Street Spine and Highgate Private Hospital, this is contributing to more people experiencing things like migraines and blurred vision, not to mention neck pain. “I am starting to see a lot more patients suffering from chronic pain and headache-like symptoms, which is often referred pain from the neck and shoulders as a result of using the phone in such a way that compromises their spine,” says Mr Bob Chatterjee.

Other symptoms of text neck syndrome can include the following:

  • Tightness and stiffness across the shoulders
  • Postural problems
  • Pain in the back, shoulders, arm, hands, fingers, wrists and elbows, as well as the neck
  • Numbness and tingling in the arms

Smartphone use on the increase

An increasing number of people may be experiencing negative effects of using smartphones as more and more of us are using our smartphones more often and for longer.

Financial services company Deloitte surveyed more than 4,000 UK consumers about their smartphone habits in 2016, and found one in 10 reaches for their phone as soon as they wake up. One in three UK adults also admitted to checking their phone in the middle of the night, and a third said they regularly used their mobiles while with friends of watching TV. The report also estimated four out of five UK adults now have a smartphone – which is the equivalent of 37 million people.

Mr Chatterjee believes there is an awareness of text neck syndrome, but the more people use their smartphones, the more patients he sees who are experiencing problems.

“The brain and the cranium is the heaviest part of the body – the head should be in line with the spine, not slightly forward and to the side, as in the case when using a phone,” he explains. “But as smartphone use is unavoidable, there are ways that can help reduce the risk of text neck and further creating medical issues down the line.”

Here are five tips from Mr Chatterjee that may help:

Alternate Try and alternate the way you use your phone –  for example, if you tend to use it on the left hand side, try using it on the right every other time.

Avoid bad habits Never the phone to your ear using only your shoulders. This is the fastest way to create poor posture.

Go hands free Use the hands-free earphones provided with your smartphone and carry them with you at all times. Alternatively use the speaker feature if you are in an appropriate place and are not disturbing others.

Exercise Stretch your head away from our shoulder and tilt it into the opposite direction that you use on a regular basis.

Stretch When you’re sitting down, pull your shoulder back and down as often as possible to avoid tension in your neck and the space between the shoulders. This will also help improve your posture in general.

If you do experience pain as a result of using your smartphone or other digital device, your local Careway pharmacist can offer relief in the form of effective over-the-counter painkillers. Ask your pharmacist to recommend the product that would suit you best.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.