Smartphone addicts falling victim to ‘text neck’
REGINA Shortly after smartphones gained popularity, Dr. Doug Pattison started treating patients for “text neck.”
Text neck is a term coined to describe pain in the neck, back and spine that results from excessive watching or texting on hand-held devices.
“Because so many people are using portable technology devices at all ages, we’re seeing it at all ages — from teenagers to people in their 70s and 80s,” said Pattison, a chiropractor who practises in Regina and Lumsden.
The damage is not confined to the neck.
“There’s texting thumb, texting wrist and it affects the shoulder,” Pattison said.
“The body was never designed to do repetitive tasks without rest.”
Texting promotes poor posture which contributes to back problems, said Mohammed Nazari, a physical therapist with Alpha Physical Therapy and Health Centre in Regina.
“They can have pain in the upper back from holding it and needless to say neck pain and pain in the wrist and thumb,” Nazari said.
He predicts constant texting could be a problem in the future.
Nazari compares the human body to a new car that’s maintained versus a rented car that is driven hard.
“After six months or a year, neither car likely has many issues, but which one would you buy?” he asked. “The rental car that has not been taken care of has lost all of its potential and is now close to being broken very easily because of mistreatment.
“That is something to consider. When we’re younger, we really abuse our bodies at times like a rental car. But it doesn’t mean that because we don’t have injuries that we’re doing OK.”
Over 28 years of practising as a physical therapist, Nazari has treated people with pre-existing thumb injuries that worsened because of constant text messaging.
“The texting provokes the pain,” Nazari said. “It’s a contributing factor, but it’s not the cause.”
Text neck isn’t an injury seen at Courtside Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, said Sueann Farthing, a physical therapist at the south-end business.
Often Courtside patients require therapy because they spend eight hours at their computer and desk.
“The 10 physios I work with haven’t seen people coming in with a texting injury,” Farthing said. “I don’t think it’s as big a problem as the sedentary sitting disease that we’re dealing with.”
She maintains people who use hand-held devices are more likely to move than someone sitting at a computer all day.
“There’s rarely a person who texts in one posture all day,” Farthing said.
“They may sit on the couch, they may be walking, they might be using their right hand or using their left hand.”
She doubts texting causes injury. “I’d have to see the scientific evidence on that,” Farthing said. “It can irritate conditions if you’re not moving, but it’s more related to the lack of movement and sustained postures.”
Back and neck pain can be alleviated by raising your smartphone to eye level for short periods.