Smart­phone ad­dicts fall­ing vic­tim to ‘text neck’

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - PAMELA COWAN

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.

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