What Is ‘Text Neck’ and Do You Have It?

March 31, 2019 Updated: June 18, 2019

The parents of a 14-year-old girl were amazed to learn that their daughter developed a medical condition that results from looking down at her phone constantly.

“I always look down at my phone,” Sarah Atchinson, the girl, said after a checkup in Littleton, Colo.

Of her neck, she added: “It was mostly just achy and it made it really hard to concentrate.”

The condition, which some have dubbed “text neck,” takes place when the cervical spine gets reduced and moves off track. It apparently can take place when people spend hours looking down at their handheld devices.

According to an ABC News report, some kids are spending thousands of hours per year looking at their phones.

“Tension across the shoulders, generalized neck pain, migraines. It can even be numbness and tingling down the arms that we’re seeing in high-schoolers. It’s alarming. It’s setting those kids up to have major problems as adults,” Dr. Chad Cotter, with HealthSource Chiropractic in Littleton, said.

He added that head-weights, shoulder exercises, resistance bands, and other forms of therapy can counter “text neck” symptoms.

But it’s a growing problem.

As Dr. Dean Fishman, who opened up the Text Neck Institute, has told the New York Daily News: “Nobody realized how severe it was until I put the name ‘text neck’ on it.”

‘Sit Up Straight’

A pediatric orthopedic surgeon recently spoke out about the problem.

“What it really is a trapezius muscle spasm from literally having your head bent and looking down the whole time,” Dr. Cordelia Carter, with the Pediatric Sports Medicine Center at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, told Good Housekeeping.

She added: “Every single child, when I walk into the room, they have to put their phone down because they’re using it while they’re waiting.”

Dr. Carter didn’t hold back when describing her patients, who are mainly children.

“I just look at their posture and it’s terrible,” she said. “Kids come in and they sit completely slouched, and that’s been a thing ad infinitum but it is definitely worse.”

"I don’t think we fully understand the ramifications and how reversible they are."

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There has been an uptick in neck pain and posture problems among kids. One reason is texting, but the other primary reason, she explained, is due to a lack of physical activity.

“Life used to be sports to kids and now life is sitting down and texting,” Dr. Carter said. “It’s a double hit. It’s an activity they’re choosing to do and the opportunity cost of what they’re not getting to do. ”

She elaborated on the lack of physical activity among children nowadays.

“The entire spinal column is lined on either side with very strong erector muscles that support the core. If those muscles are not actively engaged while you’re sitting, then they just weaken over time,” Dr. Carter stated. “If you’re not supporting your spine, the forces are being distributed across abnormally and it ends up causing pain.”

A chiropractor from Florida noted that parents should take “text neck” seriously.

“Text neck is really an overuse syndrome of the head, neck, and shoulder. Sitting and looking in a forward an down position,” said Dr. Austin Glennon to ActionNewsJax.

Glennon said he treats many people—not just children—for the problem.

“Probably 90 percent come in with some type of postural deviation,” he explained.

If left untreated, sufferers can experience migraines, back pain, and numbness in fingers.

“When that sits for decades, it locks in and begins to deteriorate…and begins arthritic and degenerative changes that can be permanent in the body,” added Dr. Glennon.

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