A new condition dubbed “text neck” is on the rise due to the amount of time people spend hunched over their mobile phone and tablet computer screens, chiropractors have warned.
Keeping the neck and head stretched forwards for long periods could eventually cause the natural curvature of the neck to reverse, potentially leading to serious health problems Photo: REX
By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent
The affliction, caused by flexing the neck for extended periods of time, can be a forerunner of permanent arthritic damage if it goes without treatment.
Cases of the repetitive strain injury are on the rise as smart phones and tablet computers such as the iPad become increasingly popular, experts said.
In severe cases the muscles can eventually adapt to fit the flexed position, making it painful to straighten the neck out properly.
One chiropractor said her company had treated thousands of patients for the condition, which can also result in headaches and shoulder, arm and wrist pain.
Rachael Lancaster, of Freedom Back Clinics in Leeds, said: “Text neck is caused by the neck being flexed for a prolonged period of time.
“Sufferers are increasing as the use of smart phones and tablet computers become more popular.”
The condition occurs because the joints and tissue in the neck are not built to withstand being flexed for long periods, and spending hours peering down at a screen puts them under too much stress, she added.
“Imagine sitting on your ankle sideways for 10 minutes. It would feel stiff and sore when you returned it to its natural position.
“That is exactly what people are doing with their necks. If people continue to put their necks in these positions, the body will gradually adapt to the stresses.”
Keeping the neck and head stretched forwards for long periods could eventually cause the natural curvature of the neck to reverse, potentially leading to serious health problems, she added.
The condition can be avoided by taking regular screen breaks, and looking straight ahead while tucking the chin back towards the neck every few minutes.
Rotating the shoulders with your arms by your sides, sitting up straight while texting and holding the phone a little higher can also help maintain a healthy posture.
Tim Hutchful, of the British Chiropractic Association, said doctors were seeing a rising number of patients with similar neck problems but that getting regular exercise could help ward of symptoms.
The average human head weighs between 10lb and 12lb (4.5kg to 5.5kg), and flexing the neck makes it harder to support like carrying a similar weight at arm’s length.
Children are most at risk because their heads are larger in relation to their body size than adults, and women with slender necks should also take extra care to maintain a good posture, he added.
“When the head is over the shoulders it is a bit like a balanced see-saw, and when you move it forward you need to put a force in place to keep it in that position.
“The longer you are in that position for, the more the muscles have to accommodate it.”
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