Text Neck – You, Your Mobile Phone and Orthopaedics
Mobile technology has been such an immense disruptive innovation that I often wonder how we got by in the 90s without it. The impact it has had on communication and information dissemination and availability is hard to describe in words. It has made the world even smaller and understandably, it has continued to grow in user uptake. This generation popularly referred to as Millennials, has probably been even more impacted than their parents. Yes, my mother also calls it WhatsUp (sic).
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So this growth and acceptance of handheld mobile technology have seen unprecedented returns for mobile application companies. We have had all sorts of mobile texting applications that it gets difficult to keep up sometimes. But that is the age and we must go with it or be left behind.
When you are not chatting, you are reading emails, reading articles or books, streaming videos, or just catching up on the news. Imagine that of the 6 billion people around the world today, 4 billion of them have mobile phones. Since the advent of the GSM in Nigeria in 2001, the user base has grown immensely. The NCC estimated the number of active GSM lines in the country to be about 149 million as of May 2016.
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With the average cost of data reducing across all networks, even though service quality is still quite poor, one expects even more people to get access to mobile data technology. So, WhatsApp and all other such apps are in for a boom. It is said that mobile users spend an average of two to four hours daily looking down at their devices. Incredible!
With this growth come some health risks we all must be wary of. It is usually insidious and the effects become apparent many years down the line, long after considerable debilitating damage has been done. Bending the neck forward to look down at a mobile device puts considerable strain on the neck and this is where the term text neck originated from.
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We are all guilty of this. There is always a flurry of things to catch up on and everywhere you turn now, you find people, young and old, completely absorbed in the e-world, socialising and connecting. It just never ends. Once your ears are not aligned with your shoulders, you have hunched over and the repetitive strain on the neck and spine can have very untoward effects on the architecture of the bones, muscles, and ligaments in that region.
In the neutral state, the average human head weighs about 4 -5 kilos but bending forward increases the weight to 12 kilos at just 15o and to almost 27 kilos at 60o according to research findings from the National Library of Medicine in 2014. Remaining in this position for extended periods, as most of us do when we get carried away with social media and communicating with teams and clients can harm us slowly and we must be proactive in curbing it.
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You know there is a problem when your neck creaks when you straighten up after looking down for a bit. There are additional symptoms of headaches, pain in the back, neck, shoulders, and arms. Occasionally, there be numbness or tingling in the fingers when the condition worsens over time.
There are reports that text neck is a precursor for arthritis and can even lead to lung problems. All these are totally preventable by taking simple steps. Again, because it is very easy to get carried away with gist online, you must consciously remind yourself of the hazards of bending the neck for too long.
Researchers have developed apps that are available for download. They are designed to monitor the angulation of your neck while you use your mobile device and will notify you when you have been hunched over for too long. One of such is the Text Neck Indicator.
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There are others like HeadUp, which remind you to look up after some minutes to ensure you do not get carried away with your device. You can also simply set an alarm on your device to warn you at intervals, say every 15 minutes, so you can take a break from using the device.
It may help to also practice and develop new habits of mobile device usage. Rather than leaning forward to look down at the device, why not raise the phone to eye level? This ensures you do not bear down on your neck for long periods. You can even use voice-to-text applications that function with voice recognition and will perform transcriptions so you type less.
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These are all practical solutions to curbing a health concern that is on the rise since we cannot avoid technology as a whole. The critical thing is to raise awareness about the problem and how susceptible we all are to it and its longstanding consequences.
It will be aesthetically unpleasant to end up with a neck brace a few years from now. There is also the issue of chronic pain management when the arthritic process is pronounced. Better safe than sorry. Text neck is a real and present danger.
So the question is, where and how is your neck right now?
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