|Text messaging, when applied right, has been known to be a powerful tool for physical health; SMS has been used in a myriad of creative tactics to tackle medical issues and improve public health. Is it possible, though, that our extensive texting habits could be damaging our own physical health? Believe it or not, several physical ailments have been associated with excessive text messaging
Surprisingly, our texting habits could be affecting our posture--and contributing to a surprising range of health afflictions associated with poor posture. A condition called text neck, or tech neck, occurs from frequently holding the head down to look at mobile devices. When the spine is in a neutral position, one's head weighs about 10-12 pounds, which is roughly the weight neck muscles and nerves are meant to support. As the downward angle increases, the weight of the head on the neck muscles increases; at 60 degrees down, the head puts a strain of 60 pounds on the neck!
Over time, text neck can not only degrade posture but wear on the spine and create neck pain that may even spread through nerves to other parts of the body. Usually, patients who report text neck fare better after straightening their posture and seeing a physical therapist. However, it is best to try to avoid holding devices far below eye level when possible, to stave off neck pain and long-term damage.
While pain from text neck can usually be addressed, the condition may have more serious, long-term health consequences. When the head is angled down and shoulders are rounded down, it is harder to take a full breath. The function of the heart and lungs is also limited, as the ribs cannot move properly when we slouch. Poor posture also constricts bloodflow, making our hearts do extra work, which can wear the muscle down in the long run. For these reasons, some medical professionals say poor posture can be as dangerous as obesity.
Because texting tends to cause immediate slouching and head dropping, and may also encourage poorer posture long-term, these risks become associated with texting, too. While these side effects of poor posture, text-related or not, are usually not noticeable in the short run, they should be taken seriously. Adjusting the angles we keep our personal devices at relative to our heads, and focusing on having a straighter posture in general, are good ways of addressing the problem now in an effort to stave off health complications later in life.
In addition to text neck and its potential complications, texting carries a few other, more minor physical health risks.When texters are not cautious, excessive SMS has also been known to cause more acute injuries. An affliction known as Blackberry thumb can cause pain and tendinitis. Repeated use of the thumbs to text can place strain on wrist and thumb tendons, which aren't meant to support the nimble, precise motions of texting. To prevent this affliction, one can reduce the use of their thumbs to text by sometimes using their forefingers to text instead, as well as dictation software that converts speech into text.
While less serious, eye dryness and discomfort is a very common complaint among frequent texters, as well as those who use a computer all day at work. This eye strain, caused by looking at screens for too long, is thankfully temporary, and only a direct response to excessive and demanding use of the eyes on bright screens. By taking breaks from screens whenever possible and giving our eyes a rest, this strain can be easily avoided.
While the potential health consequences that are associated with texting and personal device use can be surprising and even frightening, it is important to know that only with knowledge of these issues can we take preventive steps for our health. By knowing the risks, we can work actively to engage in healthier habits that put us at lower risk of injury and illness. By watching how often we text, and focusing on more balanced, deliberate habits when we do text, we can take a big step towards better health.
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.