Electronic devices are part of our everyday life. We use them at work, school, for entertainment, and communication. And, most of us have seen or read about the damage that electronic devices can inflict on the human body. We've heard that prolonged use can cause eye strain, disrupt sleep patterns, damage hearing, and even negatively impact the maturation of the human brain.
Well, here's more news that you may NOT have heard. There is a new disease that some medical researchers think is becoming "epidemic" and it's caused by prolonged use of handheld devices. The disease is called "text neck" and it's no joke. It's been described in the medical literature and is truly causing pain and disability for many people.
Here's how: The human head weighs about 12 pounds. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the upper spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it's 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it's 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it's 60 pounds. That's the weight that comes with staring at a smartphone - the way millions do for hours every day. So what does that do to the body?
Researchers say that over time, maintaining this bent position of the neck will result in early degeneration of the upper spine, pain and likely the need for surgery. It also decreases lung capacity, causes headaches, depression and heart disease. You may find this hard to believe. If so, think of it this way. Imagine carrying an 8-year-old around your neck several hours per day. Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over, reading e-mails, sending texts or checking social media sites. That's 700 to 1,400 hours per year people are putting stress on their spines, according to the research. And teenagers might be the worst. They could conceivably spend an additional 5,000 hours in this position. If you like to read...you can add in even more "hunch time".
So, how can you protect yourself from this wear and tear? (Obviously, most people can't or won't give up tablets, smart phones, e-readers and other hand-held devices).
Look down at your device with your eyes, not your head.
Don't bend your neck; keep your head up. Avoid hunching forward.
Take breaks. Move your head from left to right several times. Use your hands to provide resistance and push your head against them, first forward and then backward. Stand in a doorway with your arms extended and push your chest forward to strengthen the muscles in your neck and upper back.
Technology is part of our lives. We use it socially, academically and professionally. Be aware of the potential damage it can cause to your body. Take care!