Written for Shoulder1 by Craig Gaffney
It might be time to put down that cell phone – or to raise it up.
Recent research done at Temple University indicates that frequently using your phone to text and email may lead to shoulder and neck pain. Top ergonomic experts agree – they fear texters may soon suffer the same shoulder problems as office workers.
“What we’ve seen so far is very similar to what we see with office workers who’ve spent most of their time at a computer,” Judith Gold, a researcher at Temple University, says. “The way the body is positioned for texting – stationary shoulders and back with rapidly moving fingers – is similar to the position for typing on a computer.”
Desk jockeys have long known the maladies associated with typing. They extend to carpal tunnel in the hands, stress headaches, muscle tightness in the shoulders and back, tight hips from sitting too much and sore necks from staring at the computer screen.
So how can a tiny cell phone cause similar problems? It turns out it may not be in the act of texting, but where you place the phone while doing it. Texters who lower their hands below their shoulders force their neck to strain in order to look at the screen. In fact, each inch that the texter’s head moves forward adds about 10 pounds of pressure to their neck and shoulders.
"We are straining our muscles both in our necks and our upper backs and our shoulders to accommodate for this position," Dr. Alton Barron, a physician at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital says.
This is a problem that doctors and chiropractors have been aware of for years. Known in the medical community as ‘forward head posture,’ it has recently adopted the moniker ‘text neck.’ But texting is not the only thing that can cause it – doctors warn that the proliferation of tablets and portable video gaming devices may cause these same injuries in non-texters.
What can be done to prevent ‘text neck’ and its associated shoulder injuries?
“I tell my patients the easiest thing to do is pick up the phone and call people,” says Cynthia Vaughn, a spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association.
If that isn’t an option (for whatever reason), doctors advise taking extended breaks from texting every hour, extending your arms at shoulder level while texting, and avoiding lowering your chin to your chest.
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