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Physical therapists agree text neck is a medical concern

When you’re bending down and looking at your phone, do you think about how it affects your neck?

Health experts said “text neck” is a condition that is becoming more and more common, especially with younger generations and the rise of technology.

Physical therapists in Pocatello said it’s a problem they see locally too. In fact, physical therapists said it’s become a common part of their screening process with new patients. Therapists said when patients come in with headaches, neck or upper shoulder problems, one of the first things they ask is how much time they spend using technology. This helps diagnose the problem and correct it, and also keep it from happening again.

“Text neck” is a term used to describe looking downward for long, consistent periods of time, such as looking down at cell phones or tablets.

“We’re starting to see more and more of it,” said Corey Rasmussen, a physical therapist at Physical Therapist Specialists of Idaho. “Some people even say it’s becoming an epidemic.”

Physical therapists said the “text neck” position is harmful because it creates a bad posture and all that goes with it, like added pressure on the neck.

“The problem is that your head is typically about ten to twelve pounds on your shoulders and that’s what it’s meant to take,” said Joni Vaughn-Powell, MPT at Highland Physical Therapy. “The more you increase the angle of looking down, the weight of the head increases exponentially.”

“If you want to think about holding a bowling ball just up like this with your forearm, now think about if you had to hold that bowling ball and tilt that forward,” Rasmusssen said. “Think about the amount of strain and pressure that’s going to be on your forearm. And when that gets exerted for 2 to 4 hours a day on your neck, you’re going to see a lot of problems.”

And consistently doing this will continually add stress and pressure to your neck and upper shoulders.

“Overtime, if the body is overstretched, and it’s not strengthened the other way, we create an imbalance which creates problems with our musculature or our nerves,” said Randy Sidwell, a physical therapist with Advanced Performance Physical Therapy.

Sidwell said some possible signs of a “text neck” problem would be lingering pain or stiffness in your neck and upper shoulders. You could also experience weakness or tingling in your arms if it’s started to pinch off and affect those nerves.

Rasmussen said it is treatable, but the earlier it’s caught, the better the chances.

“It’s almost like any other condition, whether it’s for the body or for the car,” Rasmussen said. “The longer you let it go, the more expensive and the more difficult it is going to be to fix.”

Some suggestions therapists have to prevent “text neck” is to lessen the amount of time spent on phones or other technological devices. Even just taking short breaks from looking at phones or a computer can help.

Therapists also suggest making sure computers or phones, whatever it you’re looking at, are at eye level to keep your neck up. And they all recommend some good old-fashioned advice: watch your posture and don’t slouch. Slouching when working with technology can cause the head to move forward and cause the same problems.

Therapists said proper posture should have your ear aligned with your shoulder and hip. There should be a natural curve to your back, but no hunch at all near the shoulders.

There are also some basic exercises to do if you feel effects from working with technology. Chin tucks, rowing-type actions to strengthen the back and shoulders. Those are just a few.

You can go to any physical therapist, or even chiropractor, for advice and treatment for “text neck.”

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