Muscle tension caused by improper posture in prolonged use of cell phones or tablets causes ‘neck of text’ and even inflammation in the nerves
The cell phone is almost an inseparable companion, seen by many as an essential good in everyday life – but what many people do not know is that overuse of them can cause harm to the human body.
If you experience constant headaches, an extremely sensitive scalp or a nuisance behind an eye, the fault may be in the misuse of the smartphone.
Experts say more and more cases of “text neck” – headaches – linked to neck and neck tensions caused by time tilted in an undue position to visualize the cell phone.
According to physiotherapist Priya Dasoju, the “text neck” can also lead to pain in the arm and shoulder.
“What we are seeing are cervicogenic headaches,” he said. She says the problem comes from both tilting the head forward of the cell phone screen, and this creates intense pressure on the front and back of the neck.
This problem may worsen and, in some cases, lead to a condition known as occipital neuralgia.
It is a neurological condition in which the occipital nerves – from the top of the spinal cord to the scalp – become inflamed or injured. It can be mistaken for headaches or migraines.
“About 30% of our patients we see have occipital neuralgia,” said osteopath Lola Phillips.
“You tend to have this problem when you use a lot of tablets, laptops or smartphones. You start to feel a tension in the front of the neck and a weakness in the back of it.”
The pain may be intense, as if the neck were “burning”, and begins at the base of the head, extending throughout the upper part, on the scalp.
Generally, the pain starts in the back of the head, in the occipital nerve, but sometimes they are located more in the front, above the eyes.
‘Rays of pain’
Adam Clark Estes began to feel headaches a few months ago. According to him, the pain is intense. “It’s like the pain of a strong hangover. You feel your head throbbing.”
“As if someone had hit me on the head with a hot steel barrel sending rays of excruciating pain to the skull,” he says.
You may feel the pain on one side of the head or both, and even behind the eyes when you move your neck. The advice to cure the problem is to change your posture when moving your cell phone – and avoid overuse of it.
“Anyone who suffers from this should think about adopting different postures when using a cell phone. Sit upright, for example, and pick up the smartphone or use a holder for it to stay at a more appropriate height,” explains osteopath Lola Phillips.
“You need to have more discipline with the use of the phone as well,” he reiterates.
Treatment includes posture correction, massage and anti-inflammatory medicines, but in some cases more drastic measures are required.
Adam Clark had to inject a cocktail of steroids and other relaxing nerves around his neck.
“I think the doctor gave me almost 20 separate injections and after them I got so soft that I thought I was going to faint.”
“After recovering, the doctor told me that I would feel better in a day – and even better,” he says.
Doctors may also prescribe muscle relaxants, antidepressants.
Experts say prevention is the best option. Decreasing the use of smartphones or positioning them closer to eye level are good strategies to avoid the problem.
“Try not to hold the same posture for too long,” said physiotherapist Priya Dasoju.
“Put a reminder on your smartphone or computer to make sure you are not in the same position for many consecutive minutes.”
Doctors guarantee that the conditions caused by overuse of smartphones are only painful, not fatal.