Have you ever been told to sit up straight? It turns out that hunching your shoulders and keeping your head down while working, studying, reading or texting is not only bad for your posture, it can impact the health of your cervical spine (neck.)
Your head weighs approximately 12 pounds - if you spend a significant amount of time slumped over, the forces on your cervical spine are substantial. According to recent research, when you bend your head forward at 15 degrees, its weight effectively increases from 12 pounds to 27 pounds. At 45 degrees, your head exerts 49 pounds of force, and at 60 degrees, 60 pounds - this is like carrying an eight-year-old child around on your neck for several hours per day!
According to The Wireless Association, approximately 2 trillion text messages were sent in the U.S. last year. Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over their devices, which amounts to 700 to 1,400 hours per year that they are exerting this stress on their necks. Additional time spent bent over a desk or computer, reading or studying, can compound the problem.
The purpose of the cervical spine is to contain and protect the spinal cord, to support the skull, and to enable diverse head movements (rotation side to side, bending forward, backward, and sideways). With proper posture, the weight of the head is held directly above the spine's center of gravity. In a forward head position, where the head is held ahead of the center of gravity, stress on the cervical spine results. Long-term consequences may include pain, inflammation, muscle strain and spasm, disc herniation, arthritis, pinched nerves and loss of the cervical curve.
Several suggestions to counteract "text neck" are as follows. First, hold your electronic device in front of you instead of bending your head down. Second, use a bookstand and/or proper computer ergonomics to prevent forward head posture while working or studying. Third, maintain spinal and core fitness through practices such as yoga, pilates, and/or weight training to keep supportive spinal muscles strong. Finally, undergo an examination with a chiropractor specializing in the cervical spine to determine whether a cervical injury is contributing to neck symptoms.
With over 20 years of experience as a specialist in the upper cervical spine, Upper Cervical Chiropractor Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., has been helping patients with cervical problems for the past two years on Maui. For more information, contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or www.erinelster.com.