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Mobile phones can be a pain in the neck

Published:24 May 2016


Smart phones and social media are keeping us connected more than ever before.

In  fact, a recent study by Facebook showed that 79% of people between the age of 18 and 44 have their mobile phones with them almost all the time – only two hours of each waking day spent without the phone in their hand.

It’s a trend which has had a huge effect on people’s posture and consequential musculoskeletal pain.

Enter ‘text neck’, a relatively new phenomenon, but one that will continue to grow in our modern society thanks to our ever-growing reliance on mobile devices.  

According to CQUniversity’s Chiropractic Science Discipline Lead, Associate Professor Sharyn Eaton, chiropractors are seeing more and more patients in their practices complaining of severe upper back and neck pain, due to text neck.  

“Chiropractors are seeing an increasing number of patients with severe upper back pain which can be attributed to the extended use of mobile devices,” Assoc Prof Eaton explained.

“Of course, it’s not just phones that make us look down. We also look down to read or do our everyday work activities.

“The problem with texting and using our phones for social media, however, is that it makes us look down a lot more.

“Text neck is particularly concerning for young, growing children who are at risk of permanent damage to their spines that could lead to lifelong neck and back pain.”

According to the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia, text neck commonly causes chronic, nagging pain in the upper back and neck, severe upper back muscle spasms, shoulder pain and tightness, painful shoulder muscle spasms, and could produce pain radiating down the arms and into hands and even neurological symptoms.

Some studies also suggest that text neck may even lead to the early onset of arthritis in the neck.

So, how do we treat text neck?

“Firstly, prevention is key when it comes to text neck,” says Assoc Prof Sharyn Eaton.

“If we can reduce the amount of time we are looking down at our phones, then we will see less incidence of text neck.

“We should be trying to hold our phones at eye level as much as possible. And the same goes for all screens – our laptops and tablets should be positioned at eye level to prevent us bending our heads forward. 

“We should also be trying to take regular breaks from our phones and computer devices. Setting a timer or alarm to remind us to get up and walk around every 20 to 30 minutes is a great idea.

“Office workers should ensure their screen is set up so that when they are looking at it, they are looking forward, with their heads positioned squarely in line with their shoulders and spine.

“Your local chiropractor can also assess your spinal health and provide Chiropractic care and advice to improve symptoms.”

CQUniversity offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs in chiropractic science and also operates a chiropractic clinic at its Mackay Ooralea campus.

For more information visit www.cqu.edu.au .