It seems that for every leap forward in technology, there can be two steps back as we slowly adjust to our new tools. Where years ago the danger was “blackberry thumb” now we are facing ever-increasing occurrences of what is now being called “text neck”.
You know what I’m referring to: it’s that head-bent-far-forward posture it seems everyone has these days. Look at any group of strangers gathered together at a bus stop, or waiting in a long grocery store line. Everyone is one their phone. And not talking into it, but scrolling through innumerable internet site pages, checking emails, or texting.
And this is not to say that access to this technology is a bad thing. Far from it. However, when we don’t take a moment to pay attention to the physical effects of our new toys, we put ourselves at risk for other dangers.
The “text neck” phenomenon is not really a new thing. Anyone who has spent a lot of time reading or staring at a computer monitor will also suffer from this kind of neck strain. And it may sound like the latest craze in a society all too prone to panic. But the strain does cause damage over time. Researchers estimate that the weight of the head increases in direct proportion to its angle to the neck. A neutral head, well balanced atop the spine, weighs approximately 12 pounds. But a neck strained at a 60 degree angle (the posture most of us assume when deep into Flipboard) the head can weigh as much as 60 pounds!
This is compounded by the sheer amount of hours each day we expose ourselves to this kind of prolonged strain. And while no one is suggesting that we all turn in our smartphones, a little awareness and a few simple stretches can go a long way to preserving the strength of your neck.
Next time you’re scrolling on your phone, try to be aware of where you hold it. If you raise your screen upwards, your eyes can see clearly while maintaining a neutral neck. Also, consider trying to use your eyes to look down at your screen, rather than adjusting your entire head. Be conscious of how your shoulders are positioned as well; they should be pulled back and turned out, not slumped forward and downturned.
Many of us were coached about our posture as young people. As we age, these lessons become even more important. As with all things new and old, adding a daily dose of heightened awareness will move us miles forward as we deal with ever changing stimuli and more ways to be distracted. Hold your head high and, every now and then, take a moment to look at the world around you.
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