Fight back against Text Neck: Six exercises to realign your spine
World Spine Day 2019 is October 16 and this year’s theme is #GetSpineActive, a chance to focus on the importance of movement in maintaining healthy spine alignment.
Unfortunately, most Canadians spend hours each day staring at our phones. We're feeling the effects of our sedentary habits and addiction to mobile devices. Text neck is one of the most prevalent and fast-growing spinal health issues, especially among young adults, who spend up to 4 hours (or more) daily on their mobile devices.
The human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds when it’s upright, but when you bend our neck and hold your head at a 45-degree angle to stare into a smartphone screen, the weight and pressure increase to almost 50 pounds on the cervical spine. Each time you move your head down an inch, the pressure on the spine doubles.
Over time, this pressure takes a toll on your neck and spine, and that’s when text neck sets in. Text neck can cause harmful symptoms such as neck pain, upper back pain, shoulder pain, chronic headaches and increased curvature of the spine. In fact, a high profile study done in Australia found 41% of young adults and 33% of the general population shows evidence of bone spurs growing on the back of their skulls – the body’s attempt to compensate for the damage caused by sustained, terrible posture.
Over the long term, untreated text neck can result in inflammation of the neck ligaments, muscles and nerves leading to permanent arthritic changes. It can also cause long term damage including flattening of the spinal curve, the onset of early arthritis, spinal misalignment and degeneration.
Anyone who uses a smartphone is at risk, but most of us don’t know how to prevent it. Some of the easy, immediate lifestyle changes that can help include:
- Look at your phone with your eyes only, not your entire head.
- Hold your device up higher and with two hands, and make sure you take regular breaks to look up and connect with your surroundings.
- While sitting, align the neck and spine by checking that the ears are over the shoulders and the shoulders are over the hips.
Simon Paige, GoodLife Fitness Personal Trainer, Head of Physical Performance and Analysis at the Canadian Rugby League and Fascial Stretching Master Trainer, recommends six stretches and preventative exercises to strengthen shoulders and promote correct spine alignment to help minimize the effects of text neck and prevent longer-term structural damage and pain.
T-fly: Prevents you from being hunched over. Strengthens muscles in your upper back, rhomboids, upper traps, rear deltoids
Bird dog: Works on your deep-lying core muscles stabilizes the spine - strengthens lower back and traps
Glute bridge: Stabilizes spine and pelvis
Dead bug: Trains your spinal stabilizers to work isometrically, while arms and legs are moving
Hip hinge: Works hamstrings, glutes and lower back muscles - keeps the pelvis and lower back in alignment.
Scapular wall slide: Activates the rhomboids to help pull your shoulders back and improve overall posture.
Simon Paige and other fitness professionals in your area are available to talk more about the effects of text neck and some of the stretches, exercises and yoga moves that target the muscles of your back, shoulders, and neck, to keep Canadians in proper alignment and out of pain.