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Straight, No Chaser: Text Neck and Other Smart Phone/Computer Related Difficulties

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD April 8, 2020

text neck pain

It shouldn’t be too much of a chore to be mindful of your future as you unwrap your new technologic gadget this holiday season. You really should think more about your quality of life during your golden years. Arthritis (aka degenerative joint disease) is inevitable if you live longer enough, but that doesn’t mean you need to accelerate the process. Live your life with longevity in mind. There is no reason you can’t maintain a high level of function for years to come. In general the way you’re built represents a position of comfort. Your body best accommodates movements that maintains these positions. With that in mind, this Straight, No Chaser will discuss some simple ergonomic considerations to keep you just a bit safer over the long-term.
Computer use

text neck posture

This is simple. Take ten minutes to set up your workstation so it isn’t damaging your spine.

  • Place your computer monitor so it is directly in front of you as you type.
  • Place your monitor at eye level to prevent having to hunch over.
  • Place your keyboard at elbow level; this aligns your arms and shoulder.
  • Placing padding in front of your keyboard aligns your wrist and helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Find an adjustable chair as a means of providing low back support.
  • Find a footrest to further stabilize your lower back.

An additional consideration for computer use is remembering to take breaks. Your eyes are able to accommodate computer use, but the constant glare causes eyestrain and dryness, which can be irritating and reduce productivity.

  • Take a break after 45 minutes of computer use. During your break, make a point of staring at something far off in the distance to relax your eye muscles.
  • If your eyes get easily irritated, consider using clear tears to keep them lubricated.
  • If you’re a heavy computer user and wear glasses, you can compound your problem if you aren’t getting frequent checks to make sure your prescription is accurate.

Smartphone/Cell phone use
There’s been a lot of chatter lately about “text neck,” which basically points to the dangers of leaning your neck forward over a prolonged period of time. The way your head, neck and shoulders are constructed means you create less stress and strain when your head is centered and your eyes are pointed forward. Consider the following:

text neck pounds

  • When your spine is in a neutral position, the head weighs about 10-12 pounds.
  • When you lean your head just 15 degrees forward, the neck feels the strain of 27 pounds.
  • When you lean your head 45 degrees forward, the neck feels the strain of 49 pounds.
  • When you lean your head 60 degrees forward, the neck feels the strain of 60 pounds.

This level of stress on your neck for hours at a time every day plant the seeds for chronic neck pain, muscle spasms, numbness and tingling in your hands and even misalignment and/or herniated discs.
It’s not just your neck that’s at risk. Have you ever wondered why you have two thumbs and eight fingers? Your thumbs are stabilizers, and really aren’t built for the type of massive work that your smart phones impose on them. Over time such use can cause tendonitis.
The good news is smartphones are accommodating these considerations, but you need to be smart and take advantage of them.

text neck ergonomics

  • Use earphones and avoid holding the phone up by lodging it between your ear and shoulder.
  • Use the option that allows you to send texts by speaking instead of typing.
  • Try to text using your fingers instead of your thumbs.
  • Use the predictive text functions, which suggest words for you as you type on your phone.
  • Don’t forget that you could just pick up the phone, and make a call…

So here is a pretty simple consideration for you that works whether you’re on the computer or using a smart phone. Whenever you can, increase the space between your chin and your chest. This action alone optimizes the position of your neck and shoulders, and it avoids any pinching of the nerves in your neck. Additionally, if you find yourself uncomfortable, take a break and stretch. Get a message. Don’t forget to stay hydrated because your bones bathe in fluid.
Remember, technology is meant to work for you, not against you. Use these tips, and enjoy the advantages your technology is offering. Type you later.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at, iTunes, AmazonBarnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
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