Text neck or Tech neck… What is it? How is it causing problems? How do I fix it?
This is becoming a more common condition these days and many don’t realize the damage that they are causing on themselves. It gets its name from the repetitive strain that is put on our neck when we spend time looking down at some sort of technology, whether it’s a phone, tablet, laptop, etc. This repetitive or sustained looking down causes stress to the neck. The following picture is a good representation on how the position of the head and as it moves forward, how that increases the forces on the tissues. So if our head is where it should be, there is only 10-12 lbs of force on the neck. As it moves forward and down and that angle increases, the forces can go up to 60lbs of force.
This stresses the vertebra discs, the vertebra themselves, the muscles and ligaments on the back of our necks, and most importantly the nervous system. When these are stressed, we can get symptoms such as:
Upper back pain
After a period of time doing this, Wolff’s law comes into effect. Wolff’s Law states that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. So these muscles that help us hold our head up in normal posture are getting pulled tight for the majority of the day when we are looking down at that piece of technology and pulling at their attachment site. In this case it the back of the skull call the external occipital protuberance. As our body follows Wolff’s law, that bone starts to remodel to help take some of that tension off those muscles and we form a horn.
As our heads move forward, we lose that nice healthy “C” shape to our neck and more weight is put on to the discs and vertebral bodies. This increased pressure can lead to those discs to start to degenerate and decrease in height. As those discs continue to decrease the vertebra move closer together and then start to form bone spurs and growing toward each other as they begin to fuse together. They do this to provide stability to the area (again Wolff’s Law). This leads to decreased range of motion of the neck and can lead to increased chances to “pinch a nerve” as the hole where the nerve exits the spine is decreased.
These physical changes can lead to increased stress and tension on the nervous system which can lead to symptoms elsewhere in the body.
“Loss of cervical curve stretches the spinal cord 5 to 7 cm and produces pathological tension, putting the body in a state of disease.” – Alf Breig, M.D.
If you spend a majority of your time looking down, even if you do not have symptoms, you need to have your spine looked at. It is a lot easier to fix a lost cervical curve early on rather than later.