Weekly Wellness: "Text neck" and other tech-induced afflictions

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COLUMBIA - Back pain. Neck pain. Thumb pain. What do all of these things have in common? They can all be attributed to using your your tech devices. Having our communication world at our fingertips has been a great advance technologically-speaking but not-so-great for our overall health.

"Text neck" (or sometimes called "tech neck") is becoming a very real problem. We are spending too much time looking down which requires rounding the shoulders and jutting the head forward. The position is becoming so habitual for a lot of people that it feels fixed and “natural” to them. 

The human head weighs about 10 - 12 pounds. This is the weight when a person is standing in neutral position (shoulders back and down, chest open). When your head is forward at 15 degrees, it can weigh 27 pounds. When your head is at 45 degrees, it can weigh 49 pounds. At 60 degrees, it is weighing in at 60 pounds. All of that extra weight is putting stress on muscles and nerves that are meant to only be handling 10 - 12 pounds of weight. Over time, this can do a lot of damage.

There are some exercises that you can do to help with these issues:

Bent-Over Reverse Fly: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees soft, holding dumbbells. Brace core and hinge from hips, maintaining neutral spine. Lift weights laterally, away from midline as shoulder blades retract. Lower weights back to start position. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

Prone Breast Stroke: Start in prone position on mat, elbows bent, forehead resting on hands. “Peel” abdominals away from mat to stabilize core. Extend spine and lift chest off mat while reaching arms forward. Maintain neutral neck position, ears between biceps, shoulder blades drawn down and away from ears. Circle arms to hips while lifting chest slightly higher; return to start position. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

Bending Chest Expansion: Stand in wide-leg straddle, toes facing forward, outer edges of feet firmly grounded. Clasp hands behind lower back. Gaze slightly upward, lift chest and reach arms away from hips. Brace core and slowly hinge from hips, keeping legs extended. Lower head toward floor while reaching arms toward ceiling. Hold for 4–8 full, complete breath cycles. Return slowly to start position.

And what about our poor little texting thumb and wrist? Repeated stress on delicate tendons in your wrist and thumb can lead to painful conditions like tendinitis.

Some simple things you can do to try to alleviate this pain are:

  • Switch between using thumbs and forefingers to text.
  • Use a voice-texting assistant.
  • Use predictive text functions, which suggest words for you as you type on your phone.

If you’re not yet experiencing these issues, great! It might be a good idea to be proactive and try to keep them from occurring. These exercises and tips would be worth putting into regular practice now for your tech health.