In the sports world, repetitive movements and muscle overuse eventually lead to strain and injury.
The consequences of staring down at our cell phones day in and day out? Text neck. It’s the poor posture that results from your forward head posture and adding tension to your cervical vertebrae that make up part of your spine.
One chiropractor in San Francisco — “Adjustments for Text Necks” — is tackling this 21st-century affliction.
“The more and more that people are using their digital devices,” said Supreet Shah, creator of the text neck fix and director of Truspine Clinic. “They’re suffering in their later years.”
Havoc for the body
The problem is that anything that changes the neck curvature can create havoc for the rest of your body mechanics.
The cervical spine is supposed to have a C-shaped curve on an x-ray even though outwardly our necks look straight. A straight neck in the medical world is coined “military neck”. We do not want a military neck.
“Instead of the cervical spine going inward, you lose the curve or it can be reversed. It causes muscle tension, herniations and nerve pain. A cocktail of things that can really reduce a person’s quality of life,” says Dr. Supreet Shah.
He created the text neck fix protocol after noticing more and more of his patients coming in with forward head posture, at which point the head and neck tended to be stretched forward instead of properly aligned over the spine.
The protocol uses different exercises to release stiffness in the neck and shoulders while strengthening upper back and neck.
“It is not always comfortable, but it’s because those muscles are so weak from being overstretched and weakened being in the wrong position,” he said.
Begin with breathing
The text neck protocol works with the whole body, It incorporates chin tucks, neck stretches and upper and lower body strengthening exercises. Postural awareness mixed with breathing techniques are essential components.
Dr. Shah recommends shooting for a 360-degree expansion of your ribcage, getting your breath to move up and down your torso, back, middle and front, by breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
“The easiest thing that someone can do is to start to breathe, to try to release some of those muscles that are in our back and in our neck,” he said.
Outside of the chiropractic clinic, there are everyday fixes. Chin tucks (tucking your chin down and back to make a double chin) are one. The action helps bring the alignment back in your neck in relationship to your spine. Dr. Shah recommends doing 14 chin tucks at a time, holding each for 7 seconds.
Then there’s the not-so-easy fix: Holding your cell phone at eye level like you’re taking a selfie.
“I feel that more and more of the public are going to catch on, because we have to save our spines, right?” he said.
I have a neck now
“I feel a big change,” reports a patient of Dr. Shah. “I always carry a lot of tension in my upper traps and have like the weight of the world on my shoulders, and now I feel like I have a neck now.”
Some may have their doubts, but texting isn’t disappearing any time soon. Not to mention, video games, laptops, and cell phones, where text neck positions are often noticed.
With some corrective action, the aches and pains associated with these 21st-century habits no longer have to be a pain in the neck.
Read more about the different types of forward head posture.
Also published on Medium.