Too much of anything is bad. Even green vegetables will probably do some damage if you chow down on them for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
So it is no surprise to learn that the inordinate amount of time people spend using phones can cause a health problem. In this case, the issue is called “text neck” and according to Mr Bob Chatterjee, Harley Street Spine and Highgate Private Hospital consultant spinal surgeon, text neck is on the rise.
“I am starting to see a lot more patients, mainly business professionals, who are suffering from chronic pain and headache-like symptoms, which is often referred pain from the neck and shoulders as a result of using the phone in such a way that compromises their spine,” says Chatterjee.
Text neck is a repetitive stress injury where someone has their head bowed for prolonged periods of time looking at a smartphone or tilting to one side when making calls.
“The cranium is the heaviest part of the body. The head should be in line with the spine, not slightly forward or to the side as is the case when using a phone,” says Chatterjee. (Did you just adjust how you’re sitting? Because we did.)
As well as a sore neck and headaches, other symptoms which could suggest you are suffering from a nasty bout of text neck include stiffness across the shoulders and numbness or pain in your upper limbs.
To help avoid text neck, here are five steps recommended by Harley Street Spine.
1. Try to alternate the way you use your phone. If you tend to use it on the left-hand side, try using it on the right every other time.
2. Refrain at all times from holding the phone to your ear using only your shoulder. This is the fastest route to poor posture.
3. Carry the hands-free earphones provided with most phones at all times and use them whenever you can. Alternatively, use the loudspeaker feature (when appropriate – on public transport is not appropriate).
4. Frequently stretch, moving your head away from your shoulder, tilting it in the opposite direction to the side you use your phone most. You can also have a massage to speed up the healing process.
5. Pull your shoulder back and down to avoid tension in your neck and the space between your shoulders. This will also help to improve posture.
Speaking of stretching, if you are in need of some advice on how to improve your posture, check out these restorative back stretches.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.