Our Phone Use is Catching Up With Us – Avoid ‘Text Neck’

Scroll scroll, tap tap, scroll… Do you spend too much time on your phone? Chances are the answer to that is a resounding ‘yes’. With two-thirds of the globe now connected via their mobile phones, something had to give.

In what is described as ‘phone bones’ or ‘text neck’, an alarming musculoskeletal growth in the skull is sprouting in many millennials to cope with the pressure of our 10-pound heads tipping forward into the cyber trance of our handheld devices.

Similar to how a bunion develops in the foot due to pressure or stress on the bone, it looks like the skull is just as malleable. The bone spurs, called enthesophytes are appearing at the back of the skull on the lower region of the occipital bone. In a study by two researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia which looked at a sample of 1,200 subjects aged between 18 to 86, the growth was found in 33%, lowering with each decade. The abnormal projections of bone which grow downwards toward the neck tend to be between 10 and 31 mm long. The head is finely balanced and is only designed to be shifted out of its normal zone temporarily. Continuous and prolonged shifting weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head cause bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments. The bone spurs develop very slowly over time and it appears that men are more susceptible than women.

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure so the obvious course of action is to sit upright and avoid being on your phone or tablet too much. There are also some simple exercises you can practice to avoid ‘text neck’ and which will also help avoid general stain in the neck.

Sit up tall and straight in a chair, keeping your chin parallel to the floor. Gently draw your head and chin back, making a double chin. Don’t force the head too far back. You should feel a stretch along the back of the neck.

The root cause of us over-using our phones lies in the addictive nature of many apps and social networks developed to keep us hooked. That substance-less ‘like’ sends a shot of dopamine or oxytocin to our brains which keeps us going back for more. According to Loretta G. Breuning Ph.D, professor emerita of management at California State University East Bay , the key to getting our heads out of our phones involves retraining our brains to understand that we do not need to flee to our phones at every impulse.

For example, when I find myself drawn to my phone, I tell myself: My brain is looking for a way to feel good. It naturally scans for ways to meet survival needs and relieve threats. My good feelings are quickly metabolized so my brain is always looking for a way to stimulate more. I can’t always deliver them because I can’t control the world. But I know I am safe when my happy chemicals dip, even if it feels like my survival is threatened. I can feel good about choosing my next step, even though I can’t guarantee that it will meet a need and feel good. I trust in my own ability to meet my needs and feel good in the long run.”

Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain your brain to boost your serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin levels by Loretta G. Breuning Ph.D.