Take a look at any group of people and you will, without fail, see a few of them with their cell phones out, heads lowered, and shoulders rolled forward – temporarily hunchbacked because of an incoming text. Any physical therapist, athletic trainer, or physician can tell you that that type of posture (text neck) can lead to a wide range of injuries in the neck, back, shoulders, and arms. Now I’m not advocating abandoning texting and moving to a Bluetooth headset-only society/dystopia. I’m also not saying we should eschew cell phones like a grizzled hermit, angrily shaking our fists at anything that plugs in. I just want you to be aware of what you’re predisposing yourself to and what you can do to help counteract the effects of text-neck. So here are a couple of key things to think about the next time you pull out your cell phone.
Is your head tilted forward?
A consistently flexed neck will put your spine in a position that encourages the discs in your neck to move towards your spinal cord, which can eventually cause numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in the head, neck, or arms. A forward hanging head is also causing increased strain on the muscles across the back of the neck while inhibiting other muscles, throwing your neck musculature out of balance. Also, by hanging your head forwards, you’re taking all 8-10 lbs of your head and pulling forward on the rest of your spine, which may result in a loss of your normal spinal curve, which can result in mid or low back pain.
I’m just scratching the surface of the consequences of a forward hanging head, but I think you get the idea. So here are a couple of exercises that can help counteract his posture.
While looking forward, tuck your chin in towards your neck. It should feel like your head is gliding directly backwards. You can also do this with your chin tilted slightly upwards.
I know it sounds obvious, but the best way to overcome looking down too much is to look up a little more. Simply tilting your head back will probably allow you to feel a stretch across the front of your neck, which will help encourage a better posture. Remember to only go to a point where a stretch is felt. If you’re feeling pain, you’re going too far. This stretch can be done while sitting or while laying on your back, propped up on your elbows (imagine you’re at the beach).
Are your shoulders pulled forward?
When your shoulders are pulled forward to type on a ridiculously small keyboard (I have fat thumbs and am bitter about this), you’re causing the muscles running across your chest and shoulders to tighten up. These tightened muscles upset the balance between the front and back of your body which can cause shoulder injuries, back pain, and, you guessed it, poor posture. This shoulder forward posture also serves to exaggerate the strains mentioned previously, further predisposing you to injury.
Here are a couple of exercises that will help open up the muscles across the front of your chest and activate the muscles in your back.
This stretch is very simple, but very effective. Place your arms on the wall while standing in the corner and while standing upright, step forward into the corner until a stretch is felt across the front of the chest. If you can’t find an empty corner, a doorway will work. Holding this for 30 seconds 5 or more times per day should be sufficient.
Pulling your chest back is most easily done by squeezing your shoulder blades together. While standing straight up, pretend that someone is holding a pencil between your shoulder blades and you need to squeeze it to hold it in place. If you do it correctly, your shoulders should pull back and your chest should open up. Repeating this about 30 times once or twice a day should help keep those muscles activated.
Now that you know what is happening to your body when you collapse into “text neck” posture, you won’t be able to help but notice when you see people on their phones in public. When that happens, let that serve as a personal reminder to tuck your chin and squeeze your shoulder blades. You’ll be much better off for it.
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