If it seems like your teen’s nose is constantly buried in her phone, sending and receiving texts from friends, you’re not going crazy. According to Nielsen, the average teen sends 3,339 texts each month. That’s more than 6 per waking hour.
With this growing epidemic, medical professionals are realizing the many side effects texting has on teens — and it’s not just quality time away from the family dinner table.
“Gravity works down through your head,” said Cortney Myer, a physical therapist at Akron Children’s Hospital. “When you move your head down, out of its center of gravity, it weighs more and puts additional pressure on the spine.”
In fact, some experts agree for every inch the head tilts forward, the pressure on the spine doubles.
When teens hold this unnatural position looking down at their smartphones for an extended period of time, it can lead to tightness across the shoulders and soreness in the neck, or “text neck.” It’s an overuse syndrome or repetitive stress injury that’s a growing health concern, especially for teens.
If left untreated, text neck can lead to inflammation in the neck muscles, stretched ligaments and pinched nerves, permanent arthritic damage, as well as increased curvature in the spine. It also can be the cause of chronic headaches.
Though it will be nearly impossible to stop your teen from texting, there are things you can do to help her avoid text neck. Myer offers teens these tips to avoid poor posture to reduce their risk.
- Raise the phone to eye level so the head isn’t tilted downward.
- Text with voice commands.
- Utilize wireless keyboards.
- Take frequent breaks (i.e. every 15 minutes) to bring the neck back to neutral position.
- Change positions when texting. Lying on your back relieves pressure on the neck.
- Flip phone horizontally while texting.
- Embrace posture-focused exercises, such as yoga and Pilates, to focus your attention on attaining proper posture.
- Use a text neck indicator app that measures the angle of your head and neck, and alerts you to adjust your posture.
“We haven’t seen any texting-related injuries yet,” Cortney said, “but I can imagine there will be some after the electronic-related injuries we’ve seen with computers and Wii.”