Our phones always have our attention, often from the alarm we wake up to, until the moment we go to sleep and it sits charging on our bedside tables. Throughout our day, however, repeatedly using our phones without taking breaks can cause plenty of issues from repetitive strain in our hands to pain and strain in our necks.
This is even more prevalent with our youth.
In a recent study that looked at neck pain in children and youth, where all the participants spent on average five to seven hours on their smartphones and handheld devices, they were observed to have their neck bent forward at an angle greater than 45 degrees.1 They all reported having neck pain for more than six months that carried down the back of the neck and shoulders.1 It’s becoming increasingly common that children and youth are spending hours a day bent forward looking at screens on mobile devices.
This 21st century problem is being informally dubbed as “text neck,” and it’s a trend worth taking seriously.
Being mindful of our behaviours is important. Being aware of our bodies and our everyday behaviours that are causing harm is the first step to prevention.
Here are three tips to consider to help break those habits and protect your back and neck from sprain and strain:
- Reduce Screen Time: Limit screen time to only two hours or less a day. This includes the time you spend looking down at a phone or tablet. The time we spend in front of the screen, unless it’s work- or homework-related, could be better spent being more physically active (increasing our energy in the process).2
- Take Frequent Breaks: After every 45 minutes of staring at screens (whether computer or cellphone), try to take a mini-break by getting up, stretching, and/or walking around. You’ll feel refreshed and motivated. You don’t have to check every notification instantly. They’ll still be there if you put away your phone for a while.
- Stretch and Strengthen: With all the time you spend straining your neck down, it’s good to stretch and strengthen the muscles that you’re using on a regular basis. A great time to do this is during your mini-breaks. For some good exercise tips and instructions, check out the videos below:
Reach for the Sky
When it comes to ongoing sprain and strain in your neck and back, it’s worth visiting Dr. Jerry Wright or Dr. Tyler Hunsberger for an assessment and to develop a plan of action to help manage your pain and prevent it from coming back.
1Fares J, Fares MY, Fares Y. Musculoskeletal neck pain in children and adolescents: Risk factors and complications. Surg Neruol Int. 2017;8:72. doi:4103/sni.sni_445_16.
2Reduce screen time. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Last updated: February 13, 2013. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/reduce-screen-time/. Date accessed: July 20, 2017.