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If you find yourself using your smartphone daily, you could have a tail growing on your spine. Yes, you read that right!

Ok, ok, so that is the sensationalised headline coming from the media, but the research is real. According to a 2018 study, a number of young people were reported to have a bony growth on the back of their skulls. The growth, referred to as an enlarged external occipital protuberance (EEOP) is a bony spur at the base of the skull which can measure up to 3.1cm! This is a relatively new phenomenon, and most common in 18-30-year-old males. Therefore, it has been linked to the effects of bad posture and ‘text neck’ for extended periods of time.

What is text neck?

Text neck is a form of bad posture caused by excessive mobile use. It is characterised by pain in the neck and back due to excess strain. Strain may happen due to bad posture such as dropping your head downwards at your phone. The head is quite heavy, weighing on average 5kgs. When the head is pointed downwards, the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding the cervical spine (your neck) are strained, which can cause injury. Moreover, the more incorrectly angled the head is, the more pressure the neck is put under in order to absorb and distribute the additional weight.

How can we minimise the effects of text neck?

Solutions often focus on reducing screen time. For some, this may lead to healthier online habits and reduce strain on the neck. However, this may not be sustainable; especially if your work requires you to frequently use a smartphone. So, we have devised some tips to reduce the effects of text neck without reducing screen time!

  1. It all starts with posture. Awareness of your posture is important when beginning to correct it. If your overall posture is poor to begin with, start by correctly aligning your back. This will help lead into correcting your neck posture. When holding a device, hold it at eye level. Although this may look silly, holding a phone at eye level will avoid your head dropping forward. Keeping your back in a tall and supported position will result in less pain over time!
  2. Call instead. It may be worth calling instead of texting! When we engage in a phone call, the posture of the neck is straightened, which is much more effective for spinal health. We understand that sometimes it is more convenient to text, however if you feel that the conversation will continue beyond a few texts back and forth, nip the topic in the bud with an old-fashioned phone call. Your neck will thank you for it!
  3. Stretch out tension in the neck after use. A couple of minutes of neck stretching can help to release tension and can be an effective way to reduce pain and stiffness. Stretch your neck by moving slowly from side to side and up and down — holding each stretch for a couple of deep breaths.

Although the above tale of the spinal tail is an alarming one, it is important to be aware of how our phones impact our posture. An EEOP on the spine of some young people is causing alarm in medical professionals, who attribute the cause of bony mass to overuse of mobile phones. Mobile phones certainly aren’t disappearing any time soon, so it is important that we use our phones in a safe and effective manner to minimise pain on the upper spine. If you are worried about text neck, for yourself or any of your family members, come in and see us for an assessment. Our friendly team here at Back 4 Life are always happy to answer your questions and alleviate any concerns you may have.

Rudi van Zyl