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Do you Love your Technology?  Does it Love you? “Text Neck” a new Epidemic!

November 27, 2019 in Articles, News
Posted by Jaison Alderman
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As we quickly move into the era of 5G, augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence (AI), we have to remember that for all the good technology can provide... there is a negative.  That negative being the spine health of the user.  

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies published a paper called “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research”, and they estimated that over 100 million adults in the US were affected by pain at an estimated cost of $560-$635 billion. In 2016 the Journal of American Medical Association estimated health care spending of $87.6 billion between 1996 and 2013.  These are both exorbitant amounts of money being spent on pain and spine care.

Cell phones statistics by The Wireless Association:
  • June 2006 in USA 12.5 Billion Text sent monthly and in June 2011 in USA 196.9 billion monthly.

AS of 2018:

  • 5.1 billion unique mobile users globally
  • ​89% of people always have their smartphone within arm's reach
  • 56,000 messages are sent every second of an entire year; equaling 1.77 Trillion messages sent in 2017
  • 54% of E-Book readers use their phone to read
  • 51% of mobile gaming is done on smartphones
  • 80% of consumers consider wireless service indispensable

The result of this use of cell phone technology on the spine is “Text Neck”, which is defined as: “a repetitive stress injury, or an overuse syndrome, where a person has his/her head hung or flexed in a forward position and is bent down looking at his/her mobile, or other electronic device, for prolonged periods of time”.  

Now that we have a working framework about “Text Neck”, we get to add a little science behind the pain. The average head weighs around 10-12 pounds, and when the spine is in a neutral posture the muscles and spine are designed to stabilize this weight efficiently and without compensation. Once we get a cell phone in our hands, and we put the head in a forward head posture, this changes the functional weight of the head due to the physics of a lever (see chart below). The increase in forward head posture then increases the functional weight of the head, thus resulting in the muscles and joints having to work harder. 

As mentioned above, the amount of time spent on cell phones has increased. If this amount of time is done in short durations, with good spinal alignment, then spine health is able to be maintained. However, if poor posture and longer durations are added together, then we can start to develop pain and health issues. Below is a list of possible effects of poor posture and repeated exposure to poor posture.

spine Effects from Poor Posture During cell phone use:
  • Upper back pain
  • Cervical pain
  • Muscle spasm
  • Shoulder pain
  • Flattening of the curves in spine
  • Early arthritis
  • Degenerative changes
  • Disc compression
  • Disc herniations
  • Nerve damage
  • Weak muscles
  • Headaches
  • Change in lung volume

https://api.ctia.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/CTIA_State-of-Wireless-2018_0710.pdf

Smartphone use addiction can cause neck disability. - PubMed - NCBI. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28105706

Shahar, D., & Sayers, M. G. L. (2018). Prominent exostosis projecting from the occipital squama more substantial and prevalent in young adults than older age groups. Scientific Reports, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-21625-1

Gaskin, D. J., & Richard, P. (2011). The Economic Costs of Pain in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92521/