Mobile devices offer infinite benefits and are almost compulsory for dental professionals, both in their professional careers and in their personal lives. But, they can literally be a pain in the neck. “Text neck” syndrome – is a growing medical problem.
We all use smartphones, but did you know that every time you send a message to your friend, you are also carrying a strain on your neck equivalent to almost 30 kilos! Yes, you read that right, 30 kilograms! It’s like carrying an 8 year old around your neck for several hours per day.
Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day bent over on their phones and tablets, reading emails, sending messages or checking their social networks. This means spending a total of 700 to 1400 hours per year exerting an unnatural pressure on the cervical vertebrae.
Recent studies claim that the human head weighs about 6 kilos, but as the neck leans forward and downward, the weight on the cervical spine increases proportionally. At an angle of 15 degrees, this weighs about 12 kilos, at 30 degrees it’s 18 kilos, at 45 degrees it’s 23 kilos, and at 60 degrees it’s a spine damaging 30 kilos!
What is “text neck”?
“Text Neck” refers to a condition of the spine in relation to the position of bending forward to look at a phone.
While it is almost impossible to avoid technologies that cause these problems, we must consider that the human neck is not designed to be folded forward for long periods of time. Researchers claim that over time, this poor posture caused by “text neck”, can lead to early wear and tear on the spine, resulting in problems such as:
- Muscle tension.
- Pinched nerves.
- Herniated disks (which may result in a dangerous surgery).
- Exacerbation of arthritis.
- Elimination of the natural curve of the neck.
What can we do to prevent these symptoms from occurring?
Here are some tips for that:
- Instead of looking down at your devices, you must keep them at eye level.
- Use voice recognition and make phone calls instead of reading and writing endless text messages.
- Take regular breaks and alter positions when typing on your device.
- Check phones by maintaining a neutral spine and avoid spending hours hunched over (not just when using phones, but also to work on the mouths of your patients).
Limiting the use of mobile devices is paramount in the prevention of “text neck”. But if this is not an option, you can at least minimize the risks by practicing the following exercises:
First, sit on the floor cross-legged or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and holding the right column.
Exercise 1 – Head Rotation
Turn your head on your shoulder, looking to the side until you reach your limit.
Return your head to the center point, rest there for a moment, then turn your head to the opposite side. Repeat 8 to 10 times to each of the sides.
Exercise 2 – Flexion and Extension of the Neck
Tilt your head forward until your chin touches your chest, while keeping your eyes fixated to the ground.
Return your head to the center point, rest there for a moment, then recline your head back to the ceiling. Repeat 8 to 10 times to each of the sides.
Exercise 3 – Neck Retraction
Relax your shoulders and thrust your chin inward, pulling your neck while your chin moves slightly downward. This exercise counteracts the natural tendency to project the head forward. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
Exercise 4 – Stretch the Sides of the Neck
Rest your right hand on your right knee. Place your left hand on the top right of your head, and slowly tilt your head to the left, bringing your left ear toward the left shoulder.
Apply gentle pressure with your hand to increase the stretch. Keep both shoulders down and relaxed, pay special attention to the right shoulder and try to get it away from your right ear.
Hold for 30 seconds. Then slowly lift your head up (you may also use your hand if required) and repeat the movement to the other side. Repeat the entire exercise at least 5 times for each side.
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