TEXTING AND YOUR BODY By Cord Prettyman, MPT
We just got back from Southern California visiting our son, his fiancé and meeting her folks for the first time (the wedding is in March and it’s about time!). Besides the stunning destruction of a beautiful area of our country by the mere presence of far too many humans, my most notable observation was the staggering numbers actively engaged in texting, while driving, walking, eating and site seeing.
The catalyst in writing this column came while strolling with my wife on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara. Walking in front of us was a group of a teenagers, all with their heads down, actively thumbing-away on their smartphones.
In an instant, one of the young girls walked into a parking abutment and went sprawling face-first into the oncoming traffic. Fortunately, the car headed her way was able to stop but it gave me pause to wonder – can all this texting be good for the human body?
According to the website digitaltrends.com, the average cell phone usage in the age group 25 to 54 is a frightening 4.7 hours a day meaning that group spends approximately one-third of their waking hours on their smartphone. Let’s put aside all the people who have sustained injuries walking into swimming pools, trees, telephone poles or crashed their car, while texting and take a look at the impact on the human body from being hunched over with your head down for 4 to 5 hours every day.
When texting, you tilt your head forward adding up to 60 pounds of extra pressure on your neck. The result can be occipital neuralgia, which is an irritation of the occipital nerves that weave through the cervical spine – aka the neck.
The constant forward flexion of the neck, while texting, has been conclusively linked to this painful condition that expresses itself in searing headaches requiring painful injections of cortisone steroids into the neck. The condition has become known in medical circles as “text neck.”
The head-tilted position has also been linked by scientist to constricted breathing and blood flow making the heart work harder and possibly having long-term health effects on longevity and overall health. The solution is simple – text with your head up.
“Texting thumb” hasn’t been officially diagnosed as a medical condition but it’s on its way. Because thumbs don’t have the dexterity of other fingers, pain, decrease in grip strength and a shortened range-of-motion can occur. Another simple solution – use your voice, instead of your thumbs to text.
Finally, “text claw” is yet another potential condition to be aware of. Overuse of text messaging can lead to a habitual clenching of the hand resulting in tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. The cure is to stretch your hands regularly moving them through their full range-of-motion.
Our bodies are not well-suited to be head-down with our thumbs going a thousand-miles-a-minute and it’s going to be awhile before evolution catches up. Be judicious in your smartphone use and aware of your posture.
Smartphones aren’t going away. We need to be smarter in how we employ their use.
Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org though his website at www.cordprettyman.com.