8 Smart Ways to Avoid Neck Pain and Nerve Damage from Texting

Aly Walansky
Photo: Sam Edwards/Caiaimages/Getty Images

Photo: Sam Edwards/Caiaimages/Getty Images

Whether we’re at the hair salon, waiting at a restaurant, or sitting on the subway, chances are we’re hunched over our smartphone like it’s second nature. It’s just about true that we can’t disconnect, but we are beginning to make a connection: The more we crane our necks to see what’s happening on social media, the more likely it is to become a literal pain in the neck, or worse.

“Texting neck” is a very real issue for many of us, and according to Dr. Andrea Noey, Founding Chiropractor of Natural Chiropractic Healing, if “texting neck” is left untreated it can result in serious permanent damage. We’re talking flattening of the spinal curve, decreased muscle strength, spinal misalignment, disc herniation, disc compression, muscle damage, nerve damage, and even spinal degeneration, in addition to neck strain and pain. Now that’s something to tweet about.

Pay attention to posture.
Namely, pay attention to the way you actually hold your device in your hands. This means you should try to keep your wrists straight and upright, and loosen your grip whenever possible. It’s also helpful to alternate the fingers you use to type; if you most often use your thumbs, try to switch to your index finger as it allows you to keep the hands more relaxed, Dr. Noey says. You can also rest your forearms on a pillow when texting to help minimize tension, use a hands-free device when talking on the phone, and avoid holding the phone between your ear and shoulder. If you must look down, gently tuck in your chin rather than thrusting it forward.

Limit the time and frequency you use your device.
We know it’s hard: Our smartphones are an extension of our souls … but if you have to use it for extended periods of time, take frequent breaks. A good rule of thumb is to take a 5-minute break for every 15 minutes you use your device, and be sure not to type for more than 3 minutes straight, says Dr. Noey.

Don’t sit or stand too long in an unnatural position.
Get up and walk around to alter your position and stretch your muscles. Dr. Noey says to try this simple exercise: Tilt your head to one side—ear to shoulder—then to the other side, then back to neutral, then turn to look all the way to the right, then left. Switch back to neutral, then lean your head back, then back to neutral. Do this all without raising your shoulders, and don’t stretch forward as this only accentuates the poor posture you’re trying to avoid. Do this exercise slowly, without straining, and repeat.

Use a tablet holder.
Keeping your device at eye level will help to reduce neck pain and possible damage. It can also prevent “texting neck,” which translates to head-forward posture. There are many tablet holders on the market, but all have the common goal of securing the tablet at a height that is designed to reduce your need to keep your head bent down and forward, says Dr. Noey.

Exercise regularly.
Strong back and neck muscles will help withstand abnormal stresses and reduce issues. Swimming has been known to have therapeutic effects on neck pain, including providing quick pain relief, reducing inflammation, and allowing for unrestricted movements, Dr. Noey says.

Add magnesium to your diet.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps contract and relax muscles. Found in certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, peas, soy products, and whole grains, magnesium may reduce neck tension and help you avoid that “texting neck” pain, says Dr. Noey. You can also absorb magnesium by soaking in an Epsom salt bath or taking a magnesium supplement. As usual, always talk to your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet.

Try essential oils.
Did you know that essential oils have been known to reduce spasms and pain in your neck muscles? Try peppermint oil to reduce muscle spasm, reduce inflammation, and decrease pain. It’s especially great if your neck pain is turning into a headache. Lavender oil will also help to reduce muscle spasm and inflammation, and also makes an excellent stress reliever, Dr. Noey says.

Listen to your body.
If you are experiencing pain in your neck or shoulders, pay attention. Those aches and pains have a source, and in this case, it may quite possibly result from technology. Overuse of handheld devices can also exacerbate an existing or old injury, so pay attention to what you’re feeling, says Dr. Noey.

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