Texting can be a pain. Sometimes you forget to respond to an urgent request, or the four group texts you’re a part of are blowing up nonstop when you’re in class. Even worse so, an impending plague known as “texting neck” is ailing young adults everywhere, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
“[Texting neck] causes you to flex forward, which increases the forces through your spine,” said Dr. Neal Dumayne, DC, a local chiropractor with an office in Burlington. “Every inch your head moves forward doubles the weight of your head, so forces-wise it just increases that weight.”
Personally speaking, my junior year has been very demanding of my time, sleep and energy, but I had to prioritize my posture after Dr. Dumayne told me that I would likely develop arthritis in my middle back sometime in the next 10 or 15 years because my posture was that bad. I could actually see the wear-and-tear on my spine in my x-rays, and afterward I called my mom and cried in my car about how I was the new Hunchback of Elon University.
But the emergence of smartphones and laptops is difficult, if not impossible, to abstain from, considering they are both practically essential to function in any facet of life. So as a result, our postures are changing, too.
“You see, even now, people in their 20s having arthritis in the middle of their back from rounding forward, which you would never see even 10 years ago,” Dumayne said. “But nowadays you throw start throwing in texting. And that’s including watching TV, then they’re playing video games — everything is bending forward.”
Of course, my pre-arthritic back was due in no small part to my proclivity of looking down at my phone when I use it for hours upon end, as well as lounging on my couch watching Netflix and hunching over desks while working on my computer.
I always knew I had bad posture, but I never really thought about what that meant for my body long-term. After regularly going to the chiropractor several times a week, I’m a lot more aware of how common it is to see this rounded posture is among my peers. Everywhere I look, someone is bent over a phone, or walking with his or her head and shoulders rolled forward as a result of constantly looking downward.
So if I didn’t end up at the chiropractor as a result of a nasty car accident a few months ago, I never would have known that without help, I was doomed to a grandma back at 30 years old.
“Long-term, you’ll get that osteoporotic picture, with the little old lady rounded forward,” Dumayne said. “And that doesn’t happen when you’re 90 years old. It happens throughout your lifetime.”
Bad posture extends beyond a rounded back, too. Being leaned over can put that extra weight on your ribs and lungs, which can lead to respiratory problems.
“The way the nervous system works is that rounding affects how the brain communicates with the whole nervous system and through every cell,” Dumayne said. “That’s why you get a lot of people coming in with troubles breathing, but really it’s rounding forward that creates a constant cough in your throat.”
So, fellow Millennials, take it from me: check yourself before you hunchback yourself. Dumayne recommends being mindful of your posture, reducing the number of time you spend looking at your phone overall, as well as seeing a chiropractor.