Forget "BlackBerry thumb" — that's so 2005. The digital age has a brand new condition: "text neck." That's what chiropractors have dubbed the painful condition we get from bending over our cell phones and tablets for too long. "This is a global epidemic," says Dean L. Fishman, a chiropractor from Fort Lauderdale. Really? Here's what you should know:
What exactly is "text neck"?
Dr. Fishman reportedly noticed that 90 percent of his patients — including a 3-year-old with a penchant for handheld video games — were complaining about neck strain, headaches, and shoulder pain. The trigger? A tendency to bend over to stare at screens while watching videos, playing games, or texting — hence the term "text neck." The condition, once known less catchily as "forward head posture," isn't new, but thanks to its new branding and prevalence (Americans likely send upwards of 100 billion texts per month), it's gaining new attention.
And this is dangerous?
Well, it's not good for you. Stretching your neck for hours on end — quit looking at your cell phone! — contorts your neck's natural curvature, potentially causing "permanent arthritic damage," says Nick Collins at Britain's Telegraph. Children are even more at at risk because their heads are larger in relation to their bodies than adults'. "Your neck is a tender thing," says Chris Matyszczyk at CNET. "It's not made of stuff that enjoys being stretched for hours on end in the cause of communication."
How do you avoid it?
"Look ahead while holding your arms out, every now and again! (Ignore stares)," suggests Jen Doll at the Village Voice. Taking breaks and using your phone to actually call other people might help keep your spine straight, too. Or you could use Dr. Fishman's official "text neck" app for Android, which warns users when they're holding their phones improperly. "We are so weird now," says Doll.